A blog by Lexington Herald-Leader columnist John Clay ignited a lot of talk about the Gators’ ability to block punts.
At the heart of Clay’s blog was this line: So does Florida use a bit of illegal trickery to block punts? The insinuation was that Florida’s linemen may use their hands illegally to create lanes for potential punt blockers to run through.
With the topic out in the public domain, Gators coach Will Muschamp was asked about Florida’s punt-blocking methods on Wednesday during the SEC media teleconference.
In Florida’s 33-23 win over Tennessee, Gators senior Chris Rainey blocked his fifth career punt, a new SEC career record.
Muschamp refuted the premise.
“We just play hard and coach hard, and I’m real pleased,” Muschamp said. “They didn’t throw any flags on that play, did they?”
There were no flags on the play, and Muschamp said “we just ran a guy through a gap.”
Later on the call, Tennessee coach Derek Dooley had this to say about the punt block by Rainey.
“If we do our job the way we need to do it, we don’t even have that discussion," Dooley said. "I put that responsibility on us. There are some special guys who can get through that seam and accelerate to the ball, and No. 1 [Rainey] has that.”
The Gators have led the SEC in blocked kicks in four of the past five seasons and have two blocked punts in Muschamp’s first three games.
He said there is good reason Florida has a knack of blocking kicks and it has nothing to do with illegal trickery.
“We have good players – that’s the first thing that jumps out at you. We’ve got some guys that got some special ability,’’ he said. “There’s been a huge emphasis on special teams, obviously when Urban [Meyer] was here, and I’ve carried that over. Special teams are very important to me.”
Muschamp and special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin place a heavy emphasis on how a blocked punt can affect a game.
“The percentages of winning the game go through the roof,’’ he said. “It’s such a deflating thing for the punt team. It’s hard to do.’’