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Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Phillips: Gators' punt-block play not illegal

By Edward Aschoff

Kentucky coach Joker Phillips might have finally put the whole “Blockgate” issue surrounding Florida to rest.

There's been some talk surrounding whether Florida’s special-teams linemen were illegally using their hands to create a gap for players to shoot through to block kicks.

Chris Rainey’s block on Tennessee punter Michael Palardy this past weekend was even dissected frame by frame. Phillips also made a comment about Florida’s ability to free Rainey to get the block:
"Speed, speed, you know, at which they come off. And their speed are big guys. Their linebackers and defensive ends are on their punt team. We’ve got receivers and DBs on our punt team to try and get that speed on the field. They’ve got big guys pulling this guy that way, and this guy that way and a little fast guy with world-class speed comes up the middle to block it. And you can’t get off the block. We’ve got to punch them in the mouth when they try to grab you and get their hands off of you and come off and block the little guy that tries to split the gap.”

During Wednesday’s conference call, Florida coach Will Muschamp defended his players and the play, while Phillips said Florida did nothing wrong and actually commended Florida’s special teams.

“Nothing illegal with that,” Phillips said. “Nothing.”

“They do a great job and within the rules.

“Everybody does it. We try to do it also, so it’s nothing illegal. I wasn’t saying that it’s anything illegal. I was saying they do a great job of it.”

Steve Shaw, the SEC’s coordinator of officials, also told The Florida Times-Union Wednesday that the Gators did nothing wrong.

"We reviewed all of them and there's nothing on any of those plays that rises to the level of a pull and shoot," Shaw told the Times-Union. "There's always going to be hand-grabbing and shoving but nothing to the level of a pull and shoot."

Phillips said that his team has to be ready for Florida’s tactics and bump players off when they attempt to grab them, making sure no one can fly through the gap.

But if the past is an indicator, it will be tough for the Wildcats. Since 2006, Florida has blocked four Kentucky punts.

“One thing we can’t have is we can’t have a missed assignment,” Phillips said. “We have to have perfect operation also.

“We've got to get a hat on a hat and get the operation off.”