Florida’s new special teams coordinator Coleman Hutzler has a tough job ahead of him. Much like offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and offensive line coach Mike Summers, Hutzler has to fix a unit that struggled last season. The Gators field goal team made up if kickers Austin Hardin, Francisco Velez, and Brad Phillips hit just 12 of 22 attempts with a long of 44 yards. The punting game wasn’t much better as Kyle Christy lost his job to freshman Johnny Townsend, whom I’m sure Will Muschamp was looking to redshirt. It should also be noted that the Gators get back dangerous return man Andre Debose after tearing his ACL last season. There’s undoubtedly talent at both those positions as Florida looks to get back to the sound special teams play we saw with Caleb Sturgis, Christy, and Debose in 2012.
Hutzler has an impressive pedigree for his short time working in college football. After playing linebacker and graduating from Middlebury College in Vermont in 2006, he spent four seasons with current San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh when he was with Stanford and San Diego. He got his start with Harbaugh at the University of San Diego in 2006 working on the defensive side of the ball as he contributed the Torreos nationally ranked defense and the Division I-AA Mid-Major National Championship. Hutzler followed Harbaugh to Stanford in 2007 and aided with the defense and special teams.
In 2010, Hutzler made his way to Florida to team up with then special teams coordinator and current Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. Florida was known for its special teams under Urban Meyer and Durkin was at the head of the success. Hutzler obvious learned a lot from him and translated that to success at his first paid position with New Mexico. Hutzler coached the outside linebackers and specials teams for the Lobos and had some standout players and acheivements. In 2012, he coached three honorable mention All-Mountain West players: kicker Justus Adams, kick returner Chase Clayton, and punter Ben Skaer. His linebackers also racked up 19 tackles-for-loss and 8 sacks. In his second season in Albuquerque, Hutzler had a big year. New Mexico’s kickoff return unit averaged 24 yards per return, good enough for 16th in the country. That unit was led by the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year Carlos Wiggins. Wiggins led the nation with 1,303 return yards, averaging 29.6 yards per return, ranking sixth in the nation. Wiggins also brought three returns back for touchdowns, the only player in college football to do that in 2013. Punter Ben Skaer also had a big season for the Lobos. He averaged 45.8 yards per punt which was a New Mexico record, led the conference, and ranked seventh nationally.
Now Hutzler’s back with Florida trying to get the Gators special teams to where they were in 2010 or even 2012 when they were a big part of why they won so many games. The talent’s in place for a huge turnaround and could be at the head of a special teams renaissance of sorts. Who knows, with success and D.J. Durkin possibly leaving for a head coaching position, Hutzler could one day aspire to become the defensive coordinator and follow the same path. At only 30 years old, he’s got plenty of time to prove himself in the coaching world. He’s one of the reason’s we’re counting down the 68 days until kickoff. One thing’s for sure: As special teams coordinator, Hutzler will definitely have a hand in the opening of Florida’s season, be it by kick off or return.