The Florida kicker situation has been a problem all year. But last week, for a moment, everything seemed OK.

Austin Hardin did his best to quiet the critics.

With the game on the line, Hardin stepped up and nailed a 43-yard field goal to secure a trip for Florida to the SEC Championship in Atlanta.

But what happens now?

Hardin’s tenure at Florida has been inconsistent. He has only converted 48 percent of his kicks, and was just 3 of 7 this season heading into the Vanderbilt game.

It’s impossible to predict Hardin’s future.  Maybe last week’s kick was what he needed to bounce back. Or maybe he will continue missing field-goal attempts. Only time will tell.

The path that led us here has been interesting to say the least.

Walk-on Jorge Powell flashed promise at times, but suffered a season-ending injury at LSU, leading Jim McElwain to hold an open tryout for the position.

The Gators picked up Neil MacInnes, a dental student who hadn’t played since high school, to backup Hardin for the rest of the year. While MacInnes may handle some kicking duties, Florida is still relying on Hardin for field goals.

“He has the stronger leg,” McElwain said after Hardin hit the game-winner at Vanderbilt. “He did his job.”

For McElwain, finding a consistent answer at the position isn’t an easy task. Most big programs only have enough scholarship money to take care of one kicker, so if they fall through, it is up to a walk-on to step in.

Expect the Gators to recruit kickers — from high school or from the current university student population — during the offseason. Though most SEC teams don’t believe they can afford to have more than one or two kickers on scholarship, they know the consequences of not having a consistent kicker.

Between now and the SEC championship, Hardin has a chance to put the past behind him and secure his spot. But if he doesn’t, there’s no telling who will take his place.