Step right up! No. 13 Florida holds open tryout in hopes of finding kicker
Florida’s kicking situation is taking "open competition" to another level.
The 13th-ranked Gators held a campus-wide tryout Wednesday afternoon in hopes of finding some help before next week’s game against Southeastern Conference rival Georgia in Jacksonville, a huge matchup that will go a long way determining who wins the league’s Eastern Division.
Coach Jim McElwain said 216 students applied for the tryout, which was set up after Florida (6-1, 4-1 SEC) lost backup kicker Jorge Powell to a season-ending knee injury during at LSU on Saturday. Starter Austin Hardin also is dealing with a hamstring injury that has kept him out of three games this season.
So McElwain called on the student body to fill the void. High school kickers, soccer players, armchair athletes, McElwain welcomed anyone eligible to give it a try.
Of the 216 applicants, Florida officials said 77 advanced to the actual tryout Wednesday. Of those 77, two were women. The Gators did not say how anyone performed or when they would announce whether anyone made the roster.
"Well, as long as they can flip it up there through the uprights, I’m good with it," McElwain said Wednesday. "We’re still working through it right now. There’s obviously a lot of things NCAA-wise. You’ve got to make sure things are set that way before we make any decisions, but by the end of the week, we hope to have some candidates that could come out and help us.
"This is something that other places have done in the past. We were successful with it at Colorado State and ended up getting a heck of a kicker out of it."
McElwain found Jared Roberts during an open competition at CSU in spring 2012. Roberts made 12 of 20 field-goal attempts and 57 of 58 extra points as a senior in 2014.
"That was `Kicker.’ That’s what we called him," McElwain said with a chuckle. "He did a great job for us. I loved that kid."
Two potential kickers could have a leg-up in the competition.
Former Virginia Tech kicker Brooks Abbott announced on Twitter earlier this week that he plans to try out. Abbott played in seven games for the Hokies in 2012 and was on the field for 39 plays as a kickoff specialist. Abbott was out of football in 2013 while attending Florida State College at Jacksonville, walked-on at Florida last season and then left the team in January because he was "burnt out."
"But I’ve never wanted to get out there more than right now!" Abbott posted on his Twitter feed.
Former Gainesville High kicker Dallas Stubbs, who spent a year at nearby Jacksonville University and then a season as a walk-on at Florida, also tweeted that he’s "Gonna go give it a whirl for a final round."
Each interested student had to pay a $75 fee to be registered with the NCAA and deemed eligible.
"We’ve had some unbelievable calls from some guys," McElwain said. "In fact, there’s a lot of people, which is exciting. We’ll get somebody out of this."
McElwain even said he planned to attend the tryouts, which could be both intriguing and entertaining.
"We’ve got to get the ones who are obviously eligible to go first, and then I’ll be right in the middle of that one," McElwain said. "I just can guarantee you one thing: I’m not going to kick. I can’t do it at all. But it’ll be good and (I’m) looking forward to it."