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Thursday, June 13, 2013
Gator Breakdown: Austin Hardin

By Michael DiRocco

During the summer, GatorNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Florida roster -- excluding the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class -- in our Gator Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Quinton Dunbar, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 97 Brad Phillips.

No. 16 Austin Hardin
Redshirt freshman kicker

Expectations for 2013: Hardin was supposed to step right in and replace Caleb Sturgis, but things haven’t exactly worked out the way anyone has planned. Hardin struggled with his consistency on field goals -- even from inside 35 yards, which should be nearly automatic for Division I scholarship kickers. He is locked into a battle with redshirt senior walk-on Brad Phillips. Hardin has a stronger leg and is the only scholarship kicker on the roster, but Phillips has game experience.

Best-case scenario in 2013: Hardin was having trouble with his footwork and repeating the correct fundamentals with his swing and spent some time working with Sturgis before the NFL draft. It’s an issue that Hardin can solve with repetition and he has the entire summer to get it fixed. UF needs him to because there’s still a good chance the passing game is going to struggle again in 2013. Sturgis bailed the Gators out by making some long field goals and Hardin needs to do the same.

Worst-case scenario in 2013: This could be a competition that drags on throughout August practices and even into the season. It could be a situation in which the Gators go with the kicker that practiced the best that week. It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see Hardin used on kickoffs and long field goals and Phillips used as the short- to mid-range field goal kicker, at least until someone finally emerges as the clear-cut starter.

Future impact: The coaching staff was counting on just plugging Hardin into the lineup and not having to worry about the spot for four years. However, that all depends on if he can solve his consistency issues. If not, then the Gators will likely start recruiting kickers sooner than intended.