With 12 players already committed and a ways to go until National Signing Day, the Florida Gators offering and accepting a commitment from a kicker in June may throw some for a loop. “Why use a scholarship on a specialist when so much help is needed throughout the rest of the team?” an OGGOA reader asked in an e-mail.
Rivals.com’s southeast recruiting analyst Keith Niehbur explains why Florida getting a commitment from two-star K Austin Hardin (Atlanta, GA) is a good thing.
“I think it’s a smart move. For starters, this guy can really kick. Not only is he solid on field goals, but he has proven in camps this summer that his leg is strong enough to get most of his kickoffs into the endzone,” Niehbur explains.
“Now, here’s another reason it makes sense. If he is ready to handle kickoffs in 2012 – and coaches think he will be – it will take some of the pressure off [redshirt junior] placekicker Caleb Sturgis, who was injured last season. That would allow Sturgis to focus on field goals, while also limiting the chances of him getting hurt.”
Plus there’s this from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Hardin has one of the strongest legs in state history. He made 13 of 20 field goals last season, and the seven he missed were either attempts of 50 yards or longer, or blocked. He converted every PAT attempt, and blasted every kickoff out of the end zone, except for when Marist was trying a specialty kickoff, such as an onsides kick.