Florida coach Will Muschamp says kicking, punting jobs open for competition

After being named a finalist for the Ray Guy Award — given to the nation’s top punter — in 2012, Christy could soon be without a starting job.

The junior has performed poorly enough this season that Gators coach Will Muschamp on Monday said he will open up the punting competition and give freshman Johnny Townsend a look.

“We’ll pull the redshirt off Johnny if we need to,” Muschamp said. “We need to get more production at the punter position.”

The possibility of Christy losing his job is almost unthinkable given the success he had after bursting onto the scene last season. Christy led the Southeastern Conference and set a school record by averaging 45.8 yards per punt in 2012 and was a Walter Camp Second Team All-American.

But he has not been nearly as effective this season. Through three games, No. 20 Florida is eighth in the SEC in punting with an average of 38.1 yards per boot.

Townsend, a true freshman, has not appeared in a game for the Gators. He was the Class 8A All-State punter as a senior at Boone High in Orlando last season, averaging 44.6 yards per punt.

“I’m going to open it up with Kyle,” Muschamp said of the starting punter position. “Johnny Townsend has been a guy that has probably been as consistent a punter as we have had in camp.”

Muschamp is equally displeased with Florida’s kicking troubles.

Redshirt freshman Austin Hardin, who beat senior Brad Phillips for the starting kicker job during the offseason, had made just three of his five field-goal attempts this season. Hardin missed a 39-yard try against Toledo and a 41-yarder against Tennessee.

Phillips, who suffered a hamstring injury during training camp, seems to have a good chance of claiming the job.

“I’m going to give Brad some live looks this week in practice and see how he responds,” Muschamp said.

Driskel timetable given: Florida will be without its starting quarterback for the next 4-6 months.

After suffering a fractured fibula in his right leg during the first quarter against Tennessee on Saturday, Jeff Driskel is scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday to have a plate inserted in the bone.

“Very difficult for Jeff,” Muschamp said. “That’s part of the game, but it’s very difficult to deal with.”

The timetable for recovery given by Muschamp means Driskel could be in jeopardy of missing Florida’s spring practices in 2014.

Injuries update: Right guard Jon Halapio had to be helped off the field during the first quarter against Tennessee on Saturday. But it was not because of a re-injury to the partial tear in his pectoral muscle that kept him out the first two games of the season.

Halapio received a gash in his eye that required three stitches. He later returned to the game wearing a protective mask and is expected to play against Kentucky.

“What a tough young man he is to be able to play through that,” Muschamp said. “He’s playing through a lot of pain, probably. He won’t tell me, but I know he is.”

Defensive tackle Leon Orr (shoulder), cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee), cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy (thigh) and offensive tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) are also expected to play against the Wildcats.

Running back Valdez Showers (ankle) is doubtful to play. Tight end Colin Thompson (stress fracture in foot) will be out 1-2 weeks.

Streak not on their minds: No players on UF’s roster were alive the last time Kentucky beat Florida — a 10-3 victory in Lexington in 1986. The Gators have since ripped off 26 consecutive victories to dominate the series.

But neither Muschamp nor his players would concede this game is different than any other on UF’s schedule.

“If we lose this game, we’ll take a step back from reaching our goal, which is to play in Atlanta,” quarterback Tyler Murphy said.

Added Muschamp: “I just focus on this game, this week, this team, what we need to do to be successful.”

Fowler honored: Gators linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday after a monstrous performance in UF’s 31-17 win over Tennessee.

Fowler contributed three tackles for a loss, including one sack, and forced two fumbles, one of which he recovered to cut short Tennessee’s opening possession. The sophomore led a UF defense that forced six turnovers by Tennessee and limited the Volunteers to 220 total yards of offense.

“I just wanted to come out and play fast,” Fowler said.

Arkansas game time in flux: CBS has chosen to use a six-day selection for SEC games on Oct. 5, which means Florida-Arkansas is one of several choices still being considered for the 3:30 p.m. time slot.

If another game is chosen, the Gators will play at 7 p.m. on one of ESPN’s affiliates.

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