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2021 Spring Preview: ST

2021 Spring Preview: ST

Stefan Adams
Offseason Additions: Andres Borregales (2021 signee)

Offseason Departures: Jose Borregales (NFL Draft)



Miami easily had the best specialists duo in college football last season with Ray Guy finalist P Louis Hedley (tied for 2nd nationally at 47.2 ypp) and Lou Groza winner K Jose Borregales, who had an incredible debut at Miami in 2020 (90.9% on FG’s). You can set it and forget it with Hedley, as the redshirt junior is back to boom more punts in 2021 and is poised to give the Hurricanes a true weapon in the field position battle yet again.

That’s not the case with Jose Borregales, who left the program to enter the NFL Draft over the offseason. His replacement? His younger brother and true freshman Andres, who was considered a better prospect than Jose coming out of high school and was seen as one of the best high school kickers in the country before signing with UM in December. Andres is known for his strong leg, and there is film of him kicking a 67-yard field goal in practice at just 16 years old. His timing and rhythm are very advanced for his age, and he possesses solid accuracy that will improve as his technique becomes more refined. As is always the case for young kickers, building confidence and staying mentally tough will be a determining factor in his success or failure, so the Canes have to do everything possible to get Andres comfortable at the college level starting this spring.

Despite their success in the kicking game, UM struggled to find an impact returner all last year. Mike Harley, Gurvan Hall, Mark Pope, Jaylan Knighton, and Xavier Restrepo all got looks, and none of them really impressed while also committing numerous fumbles and muffed punts. Spring is always the time where UM experiments with a ton of different players at returner and certainly nobody locked the job down in 2020, so it’s anyone’s guess as to who emerges and takes hold of the returner positions.

Sophomore Clay James has been a quality long snapper for the Hurricanes the past two years with no noticeable hiccups, and he is all set to handle those duties once again in 2021.


Bottom Line

Hedley was one of the best punters in America last season, and the only question with him is if he can break through and go from “Ray Guy Award finalist” to “Ray Guy Award winner” in 2021. The focus this spring will be on Andres Borregales and how quickly he can acclimate to the college lifestyle. It was huge to get him in early and start that process in January, as those extra few months will be key ahead of the pressure cooker that is the Alabama opener in September.

The return game must get fixed, and although it was a disaster in 2020, the upside is that UM does have plenty of explosive options to choose from to potentially reverse their fortunes in that area. This spring and going forward will be about who can show the reliability and consistency that the returner position demands, and who emerges to get return looks will be an interesting storyline in camp.
 

Comments (13)

Coverage units should improve with better overall depth. Love to see more blocked punts this year, biggest momentum changer IMO. Especially if we struggle with returns, go after the kick than.
 
Agreed, we should try to go after more punts, but that requires a great PR in order to do so. We really need to find someone back there that can scare the other team’s ST unit - someone that not only can easily catch the ball, but also do something with it. For KR we’ll need the same thing - if the ball isn’t in the end zone then it’s incumbent to get maximum yardage form the catch to the tackle. I have no clue who will emerge from the pack to excel back there for either KR or PR duties - we just need someone to do it.

as for the P and K duties; I feel we are very well off in this regard. I think younger Borregales will fit in well and do his older brother proud. Hedley is going to win the Ray Guy award - bank it.
 
Returning game is somewhat overrated in college game. Kickoffs are limited as more and more aren't returnable. Most teams have kickers capable of putting 75% plus through the end zone. Probably similar % of punts aren't returnable due to hang time and coverage. Not as worried about 4-5 big returns during the season as should be about having a guy or guys consistently fielding punts - cleanly fielding the ball, coming up to fair catch the ball rather than losing 15-20 yards on a roll. Muffed punts & bonehead plays should be the first concern.
 
I would have to think Breshard Smith has experience and could be a game changer at returner. Though I am happy if they just field the punt cleanly after watching Pope last year.
 
The Aussie was our best player at times last year. I hope we hardly ever need him this year.
 
I'd give Restropo another shot back there. The kid tried too hard to make an impact when he got a couple chances instead of letting it come to him. I think he and Smith would be the best options at PR...
 
Malik Curtis needs to be the primary Punt Returner/Kick Returner.

He's the most electric we have in the return game & his explosiveness with the ball in his hands jumps out on film. Literally Travis Benjamin 2.0, it's a mo brainerd imo.

I see enough from Restrepo, he's not a natural college PR'er, just let him focus on getting down the Slot WR position.
 
Question for the football junkies, as I am certainly not and don't understand the return game all that well. Short of actually fielding the kick, was our issue more with returners not having the ability to put up some yards, or the blocking schemes and execution not being there to help them?

The former can be fixed by one person and the latter requires a complete overhaul for ten people.
 
I'd give Restropo another shot back there. The kid tried too hard to make an impact when he got a couple chances instead of letting it come to him. I think he and Smith would be the best options at PR...

Totally agreed with this, and he demonstrated some ability while trying too hard.
 
Though we don't have many examples, I think the biggest evaluation on ST is situational success. Converted fake punts, blocks, converted/recovered onside kicks, etc. This is the stuff that championship football teams are able to do when they need to win games. The way UL converted an onside kick against us was absolutely embarrassing.

Along those lines, looking back to Hedley converting a fake punt. I think we really need to try that often, especially when we're winning games. Dude is big and can run and there's zero reason you don't hone in on executing the fake punt.

Hallmark of a very well coached staff is a deep repertoire of trick plays on ST. These are absolutely crucial in "need to win" situations.
 
Malik Curtis needs to be the primary Punt Returner/Kick Returner.

He's the most electric we have in the return game & his explosiveness with the ball in his hands jumps out on film. Literally Travis Benjamin 2.0, it's a mo brainerd imo.

I see enough from Restrepo, he's not a natural college PR'er, just let him focus on getting down the Slot WR position.

I realize this isn't what you're getting at, but to be fair, isn't there a difference? Restrepo appeared to have really solid hands. Though he might not be electric, don't you put him back there when you're well ahead and just need someone to not drop a punt?

I think we're not smart enough about who we use, and that might be just because no one can catch the damn ball. But to me, you use a boom or bust guy early in the game or if down late, vs. using a guy who can simply field it (a la Gurvan Hall) when you just need a damn guy who can simply field it.
 
Put me in the camp that is extremely concerned about our kicking game for 2021. I've long held the belief that the toughest position to transition from HS to college is kicker. Having true freshman kicker with no notable competitor is the opposite of ideal IMO.
 

2022 Commits

QB
6'4"
205
Valdosta, GA

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