Phillips Kicking for his Job

Most people figured that Florida's signing of stud kicking prospect Caleb Sturgis meant the end of the road for returning Gator kicker Jonathan Phillips. But a funny thing happened on Sturgis' way to taking over the job. Phillips is not quite ready to give it up.

The senior from West Palm Beach had made five extra points and kicked off 99 times in his Gator career, but last season kicked off just once and missed his only extra point try. Florida coach Urban Meyer said Phillips considered moving on for academic reasons before deciding to stay for his senior season. He talked about the kicking competition after Florida's Thursday morning practice.

UM: "That's a battle right now. Jonathan Phillips is not giving that thing up. He came back and got accepted to Miami Law School and we had a long discussion and he came back because he wanted a chance to kick at Florida. He's not done a darn thing yet, but his whole approach to the game has been very impressive."

Meyer also talked about what he's seen from Sturgis, a freshman from St. Augustine.

UM: "He has a very strong leg. I've made the comment that when his foot hits the ball it sounds different than most other kickers, but it's also got to split the uprights with it. There's a great battle going on right now. The negative about this weather (lots of rain last three days) is that it's a pain in the rear end. The positive is we're getting a lot of throwing and catching and kicking the ball. We hit two 47s (field goals) at the end of practice so that's a good sign."

Meyer also heaped praise upon his long snapper, James Smith who will be handling the job for his fourth consecutive season.

UM: "I think everyone knows how I feel about him and his family, that's a terrific person. He's a scholarship athlete and takes that position, but he's also on kickoff return as a starter and he's also on kickoff. So he starts on three special teams for us. He is tremendous."

On the theme of special teams, the Gator coach also talked about how strong Florida was in all aspects of the punting game last year and he's looking for more of the same in '08.

UM: "You look at our punt block team, I think we had the most punt blocks in the SEC last year, and we also led in return. When you have that it's (for opponents) what do you do? We're really going to work hard on that. The thing is Brandon James is really dynamic and you have a couple of guys behind him. Joe Haden, I watch him catch those punts and he can be a returner, and you have (Chris) Rainey and Louis Murphy back there, so we've got some guys. I remember my first year we had Vernell back there and then me. That's not a good deal."

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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