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October 9, 2012

Sophomore punter making a difference

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    Punting isn't exciting.

    It's not exciting to watch. It's not exciting to talk about. It certainly isn't exciting to practice.

    "There's a lot of hours of just, sounds really boring, just catching balls and dropping a ball to myself over and over," Florida punter Kyle Christy said. "But that's what it takes to be consistent with it."

    Punters often don't get full scholarships, and they're rarely included as an integral part of a football team. They do their own thing in practice and rarely see the face of a reporter or a television camera.

    Yet through five games, Christy's name has been prominent. The sophomore punter and roommate of quarterback Jeff Driskel is constantly being name-dropped by coaches and teammates and the reason is clear: Christy is helping the Gators win games.

    Look no further than Saturday's game against LSU for an example. Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease went in knowing what the Tigers had defensively. It wouldn't be possible to drive regularly on LSU, but if Florida could remain patient and flip field position a few times, eventually the Gators would take advantage of their offseason conditioning and push through the Tigers.

    Essentially, he momentarily turned the game over to Christy, who responded by pinning LSU inside its own 20 three times. A situational play by gunner Loucheiz Purifoy and it could have been four.

    "He's a weapon," Pease said.

    The word "weapon" isn't what comes to mind when one looks at Christy. At 6-foot-2, he's as lanky as he is unassuming, taking compliments with a smile and an "Oh gosh" nature.

    He didn't start punting until his sophomore year at Indiana's Brownsburg High School, the story a traditional one: soccer player-turned-kicker on a team that lost its punter to graduation. He credits high school coach Brett Comer for getting him interested in the position that eventually earned him a three-star Rivals rating and a college scholarship.

    Scholarships didn't come immediately. Christy attended an LSU camp after his junior season and got his first offer. Usually a big-school offer results in a rush of small-school offers for a punter. That wasn't the case with Christy. Comfortable with LSU, he scratched off all the summer camps on his schedule except Florida.

    A week after Florida's camp, Urban Meyer offered and Christy decided orange and blue fit.

    Over the past year, Christy has seen his game improve. About as highly-touted as a punter will be out of high school (No. 3 in the nation), Christy didn't play the first six games of 2011 because he wasn't getting punts off as quickly as senior David Lerner.

    He worked in the offseason, shifting where he holds the ball on punts from the side of the ball to under it. He has matched the roughly two-second time special teams coach D.J. Durkin wants him to get punts off within.

    "I had a lot of work to do," Christy said. "I did it."

    The results are there: Christy leads the Southeastern Conference in punt average. He is fifth in the country in the same category.

    He enjoys the new-found recognition, especially the fact that people are starting to understand the value of a good punter.

    Said Driskel: "That's huge to be able to back a team up because with our defense, it's going to be hard to get an 80- or 90-yard drive."

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