2011 Florida Gators Football: Why Caleb Sturgis Should Be an All-American

John PattonContributor INovember 15, 2011

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 5:  Caleb Sturgis #19 of the Florida Gators looks on dejected from the bench against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the SEC Championship game at Georgia Dome on December 5, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Sitting at 5-5 heading into this week's game against visiting Furman, it has been difficult to find a lot to cheer about if you are a fan of the Florida Gators.

Call Caleb Sturgis a definite exception.

A St. Augustine native, Sturgis missed the majority of the 2010 season with a herniated disc and stress fracture in his back suffered while lifting weights during summer workouts.

He tried to fight his way through it, but the pain was so unbearable that sometimes he couldn't even sleep, much less kick. And after opening the season 2-for-4, he was shut down, forcing standout punter Chas Henry into an unfamiliar role.

In Urban Meyer's final season in Gainesville, Sturgis became a forgotten man.

Now, in Will Muschamp's first year at UF, Sturgis has become invaluable.

Despite missing a game-and-a-half with a right leg strain suffered at Auburn, he has been successful on 19-of-21 field goal attempts (90.5 percent) and all 21 PATs in 2011. Against Vanderbilt, the afternoon he returned to the lineup, Sturgis booted a season-long 55-yarder into the wind (his career-long of 56 yards came in 2009 against Georgia).

The kick made him the second player in Gator history (Berj Yepremian was the first) with four field goals of 50 yards or longer.

No doubt he is one of the front-runners for the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the nation's best collegiate placekicker. If he does win, he will be the second Gator ever to do so, joining Judd Davis from 1993.

And, barring an 0-for-5 or so stretch to conclude the season, Sturgis has a great argument to be a first-team All-American.

His primary competition appears to be Texas A&M's Randy Bullock, who is 20-for-24 (83.3 percent) with a long of 47 yards, and Florida International's Jack Griffin, now 20-of-23 (87 percent) with a long of 46.

At this point, Sturgis appears to be a shoo-in for first team All-Southeastern Conference honors, a spot that looked to be reserved for Georgia's Blair Walsh in the preseason.

But Walsh (13-of-23) has had a subpar year, and the only other possibilities for All-SEC consideration most likely are Zach Hocker of Arkansas (14-of-19 with a long of 50) and LSU's Drew Alleman (13-of-15 with a long of 44). Yes, Alleman did have the boot that won the "Game of the Century," and making that kick under that kind of pressure can't be discounted, but it was from just 25 yards.

And it shouldn't be enough to knock the Gators' redshirt junior down to second team.

Celebrate Caleb Sturgis. He has earned it.