GatorNation position preview: special teams

ESPN’s GatorNation is previewing each position leading up to the start of the season with a short video. Each Friday until the season kicks off, Michael DiRocco and Jeff Barlis will analyze a position group, tell you who is starting and why, and provide a breakdown of the depth at the position. This week it’s special teams.

The starters: K Caleb Sturgis (RSr.), P Kyle Christy (So.), KR/PR Andre Debose (RJr.)

The backups: K Austin Hardin (Fr.), K Brad Phillips (Jr.), P Todd Fennell (RFr.), KR Mike Gillislee (Sr.), KR Solomon Patton (Jr.), PR Frankie Hammond, Jr. (RSr.), PR Marcus Roberson (So.)

Comment: Sturgis is one of the nation’s top kickers and should become the school’s all-time leader in field goals and field goal attempts. Christy won the job midway through last season after smoothing out some mechanical issues. Debose is arguably the nation’s best kickoff returner -- he already has taken three back for TDs -- but the situation is more fluid at punt returner. Several players will get work there.

Young guy to watch: Hardin was ESPN's No. 1-rated place-kicker in the class of 2012. He's the Gators' kicker of the future, but that future may be now because Hardin has a chance to get on the field immediately as a true freshman. He may even be the first Gator to touch the ball this season, as UF's kickoff specialist in 2012. Coaches sold Hardin on the role during his recruitment. Taking kickoffs (and possible contact) off of Sturgis' plate would also seem to be a good idea based on his lengthy history of injuries.