UF's punt and kickoff returns need work

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp isn’t particularly happy with what he’s getting out of his kickoff and punt return units, so he made sure the Gators worked on the return game on Tuesday and Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeAndre Debose
Kim Klement/US PresswireDespite uneven practice effort, Andre Debose has not lost his job as Florida's primary kick and punt returner.
The biggest issue is that No. 11-ranked Florida (4-0, 3-0 SEC) isn’t blocking very well on punt or kickoff returns and that’s why the Gators aren’t making big plays on either unit.

"We need to get more production out of our punt return group," Muschamp said. "We've got some explosive guys. We need to settle on a guy and get a guy back there that's No. 1 going to field the ball, but No. 2, can get the ball north and south. Stick your foot in the ground and get north and south.

"And then more production out of our kickoff return unit. Again we've got some guys that got some ability, some explosive ability. We've got to do a better job of blocking, staying on blocks."

Florida ranks 13th in the 14-team SEC on kickoff returns (19.5 yards per return). UF has only eight returns, but Auburn leads the league at 31.5 yards per game on eight returns. The Gators are sixth in the SEC in punt returns (9.6 yards per return), but there have been opportunities for more yards and bigger plays if the punt returners were more confident in fielding the ball.

Andre Debose and Marcus Roberson have let several punts drop and roll that should have been fielded. Even if those kicks were fair caught and there was no return, that still would have saved the Gators yardage.

"We need to field the ball," Muschamp said. "We’re losing precious yards there as far as the ball rolling and bleeding out on us. It’s about field position and securing the football."

Debose ranks sixth in the SEC in punt returns (9.6 per return) and had a 32-yard return against Bowling Green. He’s eighth in kickoff returns (24.2 yards per return). Though he has been inconsistent in practice on offense and did not field any kicks in the first half of last week’s game against Kentucky and fumbled and recovered a punt in the second half, Muschamp said Debose hasn’t lost his job as the Gators’ main kick and punt returner.

"He’s got to field the ball a little bit better on punts, but other than that he’d be fine," Muschamp said. "If we were going to play tomorrow he’d be back there catching punts."

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter

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