Henry, Phillips Hope to Boot Sooners

Most of the focus and attention on the upcoming Florida/Oklahoma game has been on the two offenses and whether either defense can slow the other team down. And that's with good reason. Oklahoma is the top offense in college football and the Florida Gators are right behind them.

But for all the talk about offense and defense, Florida's kickers could be a big factor in this one. I spoke with Gator punter Chas Henry and asked him his view on the role of the kicking game in this one.

CH: We look at it as we're an important part of the three-unit aspect: special teams, offense and defense. Coach Meyer really puts an emphasis on special teams and we know we have to live up to what we have to do. If I can put one in down deep inside the ten yard line it might help the defense get a stop. Then they punt it to a great guy like Brandon James and he may take it to the plus side of the fifty. That's how we feel like we can make an impact on every game that we play.

LV: Do you at their offensive numbers and realize it's even more of a priority in this game to make them have to go a long way to score?

CH: We know that they have scored 60-plus points the last six games, but if we can do our part and put them as deep as we can that can affect them really severely.

LV: You have only punted about three times a game. Does that add an element of pressure when you go out there in that it might be your one play that game?

CH: Coach Meyer talks about that to me all the time being focused on competitive excellence. You take the Tennessee game, I only punted one time in the game but it was an important punt that changed the game. It really changed the field position for us and helped get our offense going. You may only get one or two punts in a game so you really have to make the best of the situation.

LV: Years ago a Florida punter told me that before a game the head coach asked him if he was ready and he told him that he hoped he wasn't needed. But he also told me he didn't mean it. I know you don't want to be out there a lot, but how much do you hope for the opportunity to either get the Gators out of bad field position or pin Oklahoma in deep?

CH: I tell the guys if we can get up big and I don't have to play that's great, but I'd kind of like to have an input in the game. If I can get off a long one or pin them deep and it leads to a big play for our team it really makes you feel proud about it.

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While Henry is viewed as part of the defense, Jonathan Phillips is part of the Gators offense. The fifth year senior is ending his Gator career near his West Palm Beach home after a terrific season in which he made 11-of-12 field goals and 75-of-76 extra points. I spoke to him as well.

LV: Are you hoping you get a chance to kick a game winner Thursday?

JP: Signing up to be a kicker for the Florida Gators and trying to win the job you always want that moment. That's why you're the kicker. I hope we blow them out, but if it comes down to it I'm going to be ready and I'm going to want to kick the ball. Who wants a kicker who doesn't want to be in that situation?

LV: Have you run through the ideal scenario in your mind as to when and where the kick might come?

JP: Every day we do what we call "game winners" and I let the holder (Butch Rowley) and snapper (James Smith) decide where the ball is. I don't even know until I go out there. We try to do a situation just the three of us and sometimes we have just 12 seconds and I don't even get to go through my steps.

LV: Do you have a preferred spot to kick from or one you would just as soon avoid?

JP: The problem with places on the field I don't like is that I hate them so much that I practice there the most. I hate kicking from the left hash, but I'd say I'm the most accurate from there because I practice it the most, but I hate it.

LV: Tell me about the chemistry you guys in the kicking game have.

JP: The special teams are pretty tight knit. Every Wednesday before the game we have dinner together at James Smith's house. And this (Monday) is technically Wednesday of game week so tonight even though the team is having a dinner we're going go have dinner separately because it's something we do every week.

LV: How much does it help to have that kind of bond?

JP: It helps a lot because a lot of times during practice Butch and I are always kind of joking around and James is the serious one and he keeps us in check.

All joking aside the Gators take the kicking game seriously. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact Florida's kickers are able to have with the National Championship on the line.

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