Late Tuesday, Florida got one of the most important commitments it could possibly get in the 2016 recruiting cycle: A kicker. And the commitment given by Miami kicker Eddy Pineiro, who has become a superstar in the kicker recruiting ranks, isn't one from just any kicker.
Blessed to make this decision ... I'm OFFICIALLY a FLORIDA GATOR I'm ready to Chomp Chomp pic.twitter.com/vdPAJZ3Tcu
— Eddy Pineiro (@eddypineiro1) December 16, 2015
Pineiro has only had limited experience with kicking in games, but his leg has become the stuff of Internet legend — thanks partly to his association with the well-known kicking training camp Kornblue Kicking, and also to his own self-promotion. But when you can hit a 77-yard field goal, you deserve to brag about it.
77 yarder the grind don't stop working hard to be the best. pic.twitter.com/p5s4GQVpAi
— Eddy Pineiro (@eddypineiro1) December 1, 2015
Pineiro was offered by Florida this summer after kicking at a camp, then offered by Alabama shortly after — and the latter offer prompted a commitment to the Crimson Tide. But after Pineiro decommitted from Alabama Monday night, the stage was set for him to commit to Florida.
Pineiro's ranked as the No. 1 junior college kicker nationally by the 247Sports Composite, and owns a 247Sports Composite rating that would slot him in at No. 5 nationally among prep kicker in this cycle.
But he's also, quite simply, the most tantalizing kicking prospect in a long time, given his prodigious leg. Even if Pineiro has limited experience kicking with a rush coming at him or in game situations, he has leg strength that may be among the best a football kicker has ever had; he's a ready-made touchback machine as is, and if he can add reliable accuracy to his game, he could be a weapon for the Gators.
And, really, Pineiro simply not backfiring like Austin Hardin has on place kicks for the last three years would be enough. There's little room to improve on Hardin as a kickoff specialist — he's fourth nationally in kickoff average, believe it or not — but there's a canyonesque gap between Hardin's 5-for-14 performance on field goals in 2015 and even mere adequacy.
Pineiro may have to compete with Hardin and walk-on Jorge Powell to be Florida's No. 1 kicker, but he'll come in as the favorite, especially because he has four years of eligibility, and could be a perennial presence on Jim McElwain's sideline.
And he'll be a fan favorite, too — at least until his first miss wide right.