Gators hope to catch lightning in a bottle in search for kicker

The Florida Gators had 216 students respond to their call for a kicker.

Kim Klement/Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If anyone was questioning the sincerity of Jim McElwain’s all-points bulletin call for place kickers Monday, the 216 currently in the mix to wear a pair of Florida-issued cleats should shoot down any doubt. 

So should McElwain’s track record for turning the duties over to a stranger. 

In the spring of 2012 at Colorado State, McElwain announced tryouts for special teams players and came away with an eventual Mountain West Conference honorable mention performer. His name? 

"That was ‘Kicker.’ That’s what we called him," McElwain said during the Wednesday teleconference with Southeastern Conference coaches. "He did a great job for us. I loved that kid."

"Kicker" actually had a name: Jared Roberts, who went 12-for-20 on field goals and 57-for-58 on extra points as a senior in 2014, including a 52-yarder that helped ice a big win.  

After watching incumbent kicker Jorge Powell suffer a knee injury on a kickoff in Saturday night’s 35-28 loss at LSU, and uncertain of how much the Gators can count on Austin Hardin after he was sidelined the previous three games by a hamstring injury, McElwain put out the word via social media Monday he was looking for a kicker. Who and what exactly such a kicker’s role would be as the 13th-ranked Gators (6-1, 4-1) move through this bye week and look to next weekend’s annual showdown with Georgia (5-2, 3-2) at Jacksonville is to be determined.

The UF-UGA winner assumes control of the SEC East Division. 

And, of course, it could come down to a kick. 

"As long as they can flip it through the uprights, I’m good with it," McElwain said of the pool of feet he’s expected to watch the next few days. "We’re still working through it. There are a lot of things NCAA-wise you have to be sure of. By the end of the week, we hope to have some candidates who can come out and help us."

In the interim, the Gators will use the open date to stay sharp and do some fundamental work, the likes of which they went through during preseason and spring practices. A more specific focus on the Bulldogs won’t come until a later in the week. 

Florida is hopeful it will have redshirt freshman tight end C’yontai Lewis (hand), out since the season opener, back in the lineup. Backup offensive linemen Travaris Dorsey and Kavaris Harkless also should return to the mix.

The return of inside linebacker Alex Anzalone (shoulder) remains a down-the-line process, though McElwain did leave room for hope in saying, "maybe not as far as we thought."