Patke talks growth of strikers, goes in-depth on special teams

Patke talks growth of strikers, goes in-depth on special teams

Stefan Adams
Miami Hurricanes strikers and special teams coach Jonathan Patke spoke following Tuesday’s practice about the growth he has seen from STRK Gilbert Frierson this season, who leads the team in TFL with 6 and is third on the team in total tackles with 18 after recording 6 tackles and 3 TFL vs. Clemson on Saturday.

“With Gilbert, players never want to sit behind an older guy, always want to play - last year he had the opportunity to play but also the opportunity to watch Romeo, a senior, a guy who waited his time,” Patke said. “Romeo played at a high level the majority of his career, the last two seasons of his career. That definitely helped (Frierson) to see how an older guy prepared.

"The reason he makes a lot of the plays he makes is because he knows the play before the play. That’s all film study. He wants to know everything about the defense. He came here as a corner, knows the safety position and played striker. He can get the corners aligned, safeties aligned, linebackers aligned, call the front. Now he can look at the offense and what they’re trying to attack. It’s preparation second to none. He constantly studies, texts me `What about this, what’s the game plan?’ - he wants it a day early - just his intelligence in the game of football and where he’s really come a long way is the way he’s tackling right now. Coming into the box from cornerback - is he going to be physical enough? I’m so proud he’s taken that and really excelled in his tackling abilities and being physical at the point of attack.”

The Canes had a position battle between Frierson and STRK Keontra Smith over the offseason, and Smith (7 tackles in 2020) has gotten a fair share of playing time as Frierson’s backup.

“We feel he’s a special player,” Patke said of Smith. “Gil is playing fantastic right now, the best he’s played since he’s been here, two back-to-back games at a high level, and Keontra the same. I’m trying to get both in there.

“Keontra is a very physical player, he tackled the best running back in the country (Travis Etienne), in my opinion, and had no problem taking him down, had no fear. He’s just a true tackler, sturdy, strong body. Understands the game, he’s learning each and every day and is learning from Gilbert. Gilbert prepares and is so smart with the game. Once (Smith) gets that he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with. He can really, really run - you see him chase a guy down the sideline and just hawks him down. He can tackle, has no fear. It’s unfortunate we’re going to be missing him the first half of the game this weekend (due to targeting vs. Clemson). The guy was just playing hard. He has to play with his eyes up so he doesn’t get kicked out of the game. But he was doing exactly what we coached, just has to have his eyes up and they don’t’ make that call.”

On special teams, the Canes have had a strong start to the season, with Lou Hedley third in the ACC in averaging 46.1 ypp and Jose Borregales perfect on FG attempts (7-7) thus far while consistently kicking the ball out of the endzone on kickoffs.

“We just handle those guys like pros,” Patke said. “(Borregales) has been solid as a rock, has been really, really good. You take for granted his kickoffs, but he’s almost 80 percent touchbacks, right where you want to be. And if it’s not a touchback, it’s high hang time. But he’s still got a lot of work to do leaving here as one of the greatest to do it.

“Hedley, he got the game off against Florida State, didn’t have to punt one time. Comes back this past weekend, punts seven times, netted a little over 46. That’s a great day. As a punter that’s what we ask. The biggest thing with Lou - he’s had one returnable punt all year… The biggest difference between Lou this year and last year is his placement of the football. This year, they’ve really been outside the hash, the majority even outside the numbers. The guy’s got a huge leg. He’s a pro, carries himself like a pro, takes his job very, very seriously. Glad we got those two guys.”

The Canes also blocked three kicks on special teams vs. Clemson, with DJ Ivey returning one for a TD.

"We thought there was an opportunity to block field goals with our defensive guys in there, that came true,” Patke said. “And what we talk about on special teams and defense is effort, attitude, toughness on every play. When you’re blocking field goals, they’re trying to score points, how hard the team rushes really shows the effort you’re playing with. To see them absolutely lay out, give it all they got going to halftime, get the momentum going back in our favor at that time (was big). They tried a long field goal, we overloaded on one side, and got there. A huge play. Really proud of our guys playing with that effort on that field goal block unit and everybody going hard.”

Miami’s main issue on special teams has been at punt returner, where Mark Pope lost two fumbles on punt returns through the first three games and Xavier Restrepo mishandled a punt out of the back of the endzone vs. Clemson.

"We made a change, put Xavier back there, a guy that did it at an elite level through high school,” Patke said. “Watching him through camp, we felt we needed to make a change, felt very comfortable with him catching the punts. I always say you’re a punt catcher before a punt returner. And what a game to go in - I was with coach (Manny) Diaz at the hotel before we went to the stadium and I said `How else would you want it - true freshman on the road, number one team in the country in the rain to go field your first punt.’

“The first one, the ball hit one of their guys on their punt unit and he was smart enough to try and advance it without penalty - that was big-time for a freshman to understand. The other one, it was unfortunate. He was on the 10-yard line, we tell him ‘Stand on the 10, don’t back up and if it’s hot, let it go’. Just a situation with a young guy he thought he could field it and advance it. I don’t fault him for the effort. It was a learning experience, lucky it was a touchback. We still have confidence in Xavier, Pope, and Gurvan (Hall). We want to see Xavier back there. There’s no harder test than going to Clemson in the rain.”

Has there been any thought to use either Jaylan Knighton or Don Chaney as returners?

“Don and [Knighton] are both elite returners and Knighton is really, really elite, we want to get him back there on kickoff return - he’s running with the twos right now,” Patke said. “There’s no question we’d like to work him into a game and I think he’s close to doing that. You see him on offense, once he gets out, he has the explosiveness to go the whole way. Definitely getting more trust in him as a return man and Chaney would be the next guy back there as well. They’re so mature the way they prepare, prepare like an older guy. You watch them on offense, special teams, you don’t feel they’re freshmen.”

Patke mentioned the preference is to return kicks instead of taking touchbacks if it’s possible and the returner feels a lane is available, and also said UM wants more “explosive returns”,

“Explosive returns - we need a punt return for a first down [10 yards] at least, hopefully more, and an explosive kickoff return, and that’s our goal. That’s what we’re looking for right now, a guy who can be explosive… We also have to block better and return better.”

If Miami was to make a change at kick returner, Patke mentioned Knighton and Chaney as the first options.

“We really like Knighton, need to get Chaney back there,” Patke said. “(Mike) Harley is tough, fearless, Cam Harris can be a returner. Obviously Pope is back there. I think the next guy in mind would be Jaylan and Don. But we have a lot of guys that can catch kickoff returns. The harder one is punt returns because it’s just more of a hectic (situation) - you don’t know where the ball is going, people in your face. It’s like an offensive play, you’re reading the play. We roll guys back there every day, every kickoff return we have a handful we feel comfortable with.”

Patke also listed some younger players he feels have done well so far on special teams.

“One that stood out Saturday night and has been a standout is Te’Cory Couch,” Patke said. “He’s our gunner on punt team, is getting a lot more snaps on defense, that does not take away his effort on special teams. Tirek Austin-Cave is giving great effort on kickoff, Corey Flagg is showing up, is playing more on defense as well - smart, savvy, can run, can tackle, great sense in special teams of where the ball is going.

“Avery Huff, a guy that did not play last year has really helped out on special teams. And Mike Redding, Keyshawn Smith have done a great job. … Brian Balom is another freshman really showing up on special teams… And there’s more we need to get in there. Those guys come to mind, Restrepo obviously has helped us. There’s a lot of young guys doing what we ask - attitude, effort, toughness, understanding they have a big part in our success on special teams.”
 

Comments (30)

If you feel that Smith is a special player then get him on the field at safety, a-holes.
 
The special teams turnaround, PR notwithstanding, has been remarkable. Specials teams were losing us games the past couple of years. Now we're among the best in the nation. Hats off to Patke.

Ehhhhh....

We can punt and kick. That's great. In addition to PR, we've seen nothing at KR yet, allowed the only onside kick attempted due to piss poor effort.

I'll take the blocked kicks all day, but the entirety of special teams is still a bit of an unknown if not a mixed bag.
 
Avante and kitchens will transform our saftey group next year! Fierson needs a look at saftey next year
 
The special teams turnaround, PR notwithstanding, has been remarkable. Specials teams were losing us games the past couple of years. Now we're among the best in the nation. Hats off to Patke.
PK has been greatly improved due to two people (Borregales and Manny).

Punter - Hedley's simply a stud & takes his responsibilities very seriously. He's been rock solid for us. I'm a big fan.

Let's see Patke straighten out the Return game before we give him any credit. Borregales & Hedley are the ones that deserve the credit currently.
 
The special teams turnaround, PR notwithstanding, has been remarkable. Specials teams were losing us games the past couple of years. Now we're among the best in the nation. Hats off to Patke.
Yeah, because Patke developed Borreg and Hedley? Revisionist history giving credit to him vs. the portal. Dude is no bueno. How is our return game these last few years? Nome of our returners have been prepared for a few years.
 
Last edited:
PK has been greatly improved due to two people (Borregales and Manny).

Punter - Hedley's simply a stud & takes his responsibilities very seriously. He's been rock solid for us. I'm a big fan.

Let's see Patke straighten out the Return game before we give him any credit. Borregales & Hedley are the ones that deserve the credit currently.

This is a crazy position to take. Replace bad players with great ones who play well and give no credit to the coach?

Who do you give credit for Trevor Lawrence then?
 
Avante and kitchens will transform our saftey group next year! Fierson needs a look at saftey next year

Why exactly would we move someone to a position that's deep when said person is excelling at the position he's currently in?

Can we ever just have something, when it's working, and let it be that way?
 
PK has been greatly improved due to two people (Borregales and Manny).

Punter - Hedley's simply a stud & takes his responsibilities very seriously. He's been rock solid for us. I'm a big fan.

Let's see Patke straighten out the Return game before we give him any credit. Borregales & Hedley are the ones that deserve the credit currently.

Hedley wasn't a highly regarded punter. Good find/eval by the staff. He's also improved year over year.

We blocked 3 kicks Saturday, and brought one back for a TD. Special teams literally kept us in the game vs the #1 team.

Our coverage has been great all year.

PR has been bad, but special teams overall have been fantastic. SP+'s special teams ratings ranked our special teams number 1.
 
Ehhhhh....

We can punt and kick. That's great. In addition to PR, we've seen nothing at KR yet, allowed the only onside kick attempted due to piss poor effort.

I'll take the blocked kicks all day, but the entirety of special teams is still a bit of an unknown if not a mixed bag.
Special teams have been fantastic. Not close to a mixed bag.

Punt return has been bad, sure. BTW, due to all the rules changes, there aren't many big returns in modern football anyways.
 
Hedley wasn't a highly regarded punter. Good find/eval by the staff. He's also improved year over year.

We blocked 3 kicks Saturday, and brought one back for a TD. Special teams literally kept us in the game vs the #1 team.

Our coverage has been great all year.

PR has been bad, but special teams overall have been fantastic. SP+'s special teams ratings ranked our special teams number 1.
Wasnt Hedley discovered by Richt/Hartley?

Coverage has been a function of our kickers, none of which were developed by Patke. If anyone is giving Patke credit for developing Borreg or recruiting Hedley they are nuts.

Returns are what most of us are talking about.
 
Last edited:
This is a crazy position to take. Replace bad players with great ones who play well and give no credit to the coach?

Who do you give credit for Trevor Lawrence then?
Yes, give credit to Richt and Hartley for getting Hedley here since he was committed while they were here. You gotta know your team better if you’re calling yourself a fan, instead of defending bad coaches with revisionist history.

Trevor Lawrence? Bwahahahaha! Ridiculus.
 
Last edited:
I came in here to read the bitching and complaining about our one unit that has been lights out all year, outside of bone headed plays by Harley and Pope. I must say.... I'm not surprised
 
I came in here to read the bitching and complaining about our one unit that has been lights out all year, outside of bone headed plays by Harley and Pope. I must say.... I'm not surprised
Our return game has been lights out? If that is your stance, please provide some substance to support this comment?
 
Our return game has been lights out? If that is your stance, please provide some substance to support this comment?

Ass munch, we are 100% on field goals, we have arguably the top punter in the country, and we just blocked three field goals with a special teams touchdown......

Now if you want to get hung up on Pope's stupidity and Harley's mindfart, be my guest. But that tells me alot about who you are as a man. I don't doubt for one second that people tend to limit their time around you, you insufferable bag of gas
 
Ass munch, we are 100% on field goals, we have arguably the top punter in the country, and we just blocked three field goals with a special teams touchdown......

Now if you want to get hung up on Pope's stupidity and Harley's mindfart, be my guest. But that tells me alot about who you are as a man. I don't doubt for one second that people tend to limit their time around you, you insufferable bag of gas
Ass munch? What man uses that word? You sound like a boy.

Again, FGs are irrelevant to my previous comment. Let’s break this down...

1. We all agree our kickers have been lights out. No one has argued against this.
2. Our kick coverages have been good, but where the argument resides is whether this is a function of our great kickers limiting opportunities for returns, or a function of improved coverage and coaching. If arguing the latter, do we have a significant sample size this season?
3. The main debate is our return game. What have you seen that indicated this has improved. For the last two years, and this is part of my argument, no matter who Patke outs out to return kicks, they seem unprepared. This goes back to Jeff Thomas vs. UF. They lack basic awareness. This year is a total shot show. Please change my mind.
 

2021 Commits

S
6'5"
220
Fort Lauderdale, FL
DT
6'4"
255
Miami, FL
OG
6'2"
295
Miami, FL
DT
6'4"
290
Miami, FL
DE
6'5"
210
Miami, FL
WR
6'2"
180
Miami, FL
RB
6'0"
225
Hollywood, FL
TE
6'4"
210
Frisco, TX
STR
6'3"
190
Melbourne, FL
S
5'11"
200
Miami, FL

Latest Predictions

by whoopingcane
Certain
by Matthew_Suero
High
by SmoovEth
High
by underdogthakur1
Medium
by underdogthakur
High

2020 Schedule

09/10
UAB
Miami Gardens, FL
W 31 - 14
09/19
Louisville
Louisville, KY
W 47 - 34
09/26
Florida State
Miami Gardens, FL
W 52 - 10
10/10
Clemson
Clemson, SC
10/17
Pittsburgh
Miami Gardens, FL
10/24
Virginia
Miami Gardens, FL
11/06
NC State
Raleigh, NC
11/14
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA
11/21
Georgia Tech
Miami Gardens, FL
11/28
Wake Forest
Winston-Salem, NC
12/05
North Carolina
Miami Gardens, FL
Top