The Best Gator Specialists

Today, we begin a 15-part look at the best players to play each position in Gator Football history. Each weekday for the next three weeks at about 12:00 p.m., we will take a position and count the best down from No. 5 to No. 1.

For the purposes of this series we broke down the positions as follows:

Week 1 --- Specialists, DT, DE, OLB, ILB

Week 2 --- CB, S, C, G, OT

Week 3 --- TE, FB, WR, RB, QB

We fully expect there to be some debate/disagreement about these selections and/or the order they are listed in. That's what makes things like this fun and interesting. We encourage your disagreement and input and look forward to making this one of the highlights of what is normally a pretty lousy month (July) for college football fans.

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It was important to get this to exactly 15 categories and in order to do that we lumped all punters, kickers, coverage guys and return men into one category.

#5 James Smith ----- For most of his Gator career this one time walk-on from Buchholz High School right here in Gainesville was virtually unknown to the average fan, but not to the coaching staff. For four years Smith was flawless with his snaps; but what stands him apart from others was his superb performance in kick coverage. Many remember Wondy Pierre-Louis' muffed punt recovery in the 2006 SEC Title Game, but Smith was every bit as big a part of that play.

#4 Shayne Edge ---- One of the two best punters in school history, Edge was outstanding from 1991 through '94. While his punting was a real asset for the Gators in those years, the Lake City native will be best remembered for taking off on his own with a fake punt in the '93 SEC Title Game against Alabama. The Legion Field crowd and Crimson Tide were shocked by the move, but it helped propel the Gators to their first SEC Championship Game win.

#3 Ray Criswell ----- My choice for the best punter in UF history, Criswell averaged a remarkable 44.4 yards in his career, 1.5 yards per punt more than anyone in school history. Criswell, like Edge also had a memorable play in his role as punter. It came in a physical war against Auburn in 1984. With the score tied at three, Criswell saw the ball snapped over his head. He ran the ball down, wheeled and booted a 35-yarder to preserve field position. The Gators went on to win 24-3.

#2 Jeff Chandler ----- I think most Florida fans would be stunned to realize just how much Chandler has outperformed other place kickers in Gator history. The Mandarin native was not a recruited kicked, but proved he should have been one. He was the Gators top kicker for four years, nailing 67 field goals – 24 more than any other Gator kicker to this day – and made more than 80 percent of his tried. His career total of 368 points is more than 100 ahead of anyone else to wear the Orange and Blue.

#1 Brandon James ----- In three years the speedster from St Augustine has become Florida's All-Time leader in punt return (1,127) and kickoff return (1,962) yardage. James has four punt returns for TD, tying Jacquez Green's school record. He has also had multiple kickoff returns for TD called back or his stats would be even more amazing. Add in 357 yards from scrimmage as a runner and receiver and James has more than 3,400 all purpose yards with a season still to go.

HM: Green, Rickey Nattiel, Bobby Joe Green, Judd Davis and Eric Wilbur.

You can discuss this with me since this will be one of my topics on the radio today from 4:00 to 6:00 on AM850, WRUF. You can listen online at am850.com. You can call in at (352) 392-855 OR (877) 392-8255 (toll free).

Tomorrow, we look at some of the best defensive tackles in UF history.


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