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Spring Preview: Special Teams

Spring Preview: Special Teams

There is no way to sugar coat it, the special teams in 2017 were not very good. The kick off coverage, while they did not give up a touchdown, was far from ideal. The punting game was abysmal all year long, including the first punt I have ever seen that lost yards. Former kicker Michael Badgley, ironically the only Miami Hurricane to make the first team all ACC in 2017, was just 17 of 23 on kicks and also missed an extra point. One of the bright spots from 2017 was the consistency of Braxton Berrios as a punt returner, but Miami has to find a replacement for him in 2018. Perhaps the most amazing statistic from the 2017 season was nobody missed a kick against Miami, extra points included.

When it comes to the punting unit, Miami has sophomore Zach Feagles on scholarship as well as their backup punter/holder, walk-on junior Jack Spicer. Spicer, who previously transferred from Florida, had one punt last season and it came during the blowout loss in the ACC Championship Game. There will be three long snappers on the roster in Jordan Butler, Sam York, and Jacob Munoz. Miami has to hope that either Feagles or Spicer has taken a step forward over the past few months. Miami may also try out kicker Bubba Baxa at punter, but he does not arrive on campus until this summer.

Speaking of kickers, Miami will not have a scholarship kicker on the roster during spring football. When Miami runs kickoffs during the month of spring practice, they will have to rely on walk-on's junior Marco Baeza and freshman Turner Davidson or Feagles/Spicer to be the kicker. When Bubba Baxa arrives during the summer, he will need to get adjusted to Miami quickly because he will be relied upon from day one.

As far as the kick return unit goes, Miami did not have any kickoffs for touchdowns in 2017. That being said, Jeff Thomas was really coming into his own as a returner during the second half of the season. If Miami uses Thomas as a primary receiver, they may take him off the kick return team. Other players who could possibly return kicks are: Nigel Bethel and Mark Pope (who do not arrive until summer), Mike Harley, Gilbert Frierson, and Deejay Dallas.

Although not everybody liked how conservative Berrios was as a punt returner, his reliability will be missed. Miami will seek a replacement for Berrios, but it will be hard to find somebody as sure handed. Just like the kick returners, the possible punt returners include: Jeff Thomas, Deejay Dallas, Mike Harley, Mark Pope, Nigel Bethel, and Gilbert Frierson.

It is hard to think that the special teams can get worse than they were last season. The chance we see another negative punt or another year without opposing kickers missing a field goal is slim. The offense struggled at times in 2017, but having better starting field position will help change that for the upcoming season. If Feagles is able to pin opposing offenses deep in their own territory, the defense will be able to feast. All in all, special teams is an area where we could see the most improvement in 2018.

Comments (36)

No lie, the special teams scare the crap out of me. I mean, we're talking about an intricate part of the game. Not having a reliable kicker to kick field goals, or a punter to change field position is scary. The special team unit could've been the difference in a couple of games. Yikes.
1. No way to sugar coat it except by saying ST "were not very good".
2. JT was not in any way "coming on" as a returner. Unless he developes something completely new, he's not the guy.
3. I'm slightly concerned that the good news is that we've got 3 long snappers.
4. If you're having trouble imagining it worse, think back to Semerne on kickoffs.
We also have that kicker where he's on some military scholarship or something .. Atleast the encouraging thing was feagles ended on a high note during the orange bowl .. But yea special teams looking spooky rn
My money is on Deejay Dallas returning kicks. Do not put Mike Harley back there. I repeat... do not put Mike Harley back there. He will fumble every time. I've seen fear In his eyes.
STs will definitely be a question mark heading into the season.

Feagles left a lot to be desired last season, our kicker will be new, we need to find a better kickoff returner, we'll have a new punt returner and hopefully there will be an emphasis on actually trying to block a couple kicks, too.

Thomas will be a difference maker as a WR, but he doesn't seem to have that special quality as a return guy.

This is clearly an area where we need to improve - although Badgley and Berrios were decent last year.
dallas needs to be on both KO and PR imo
1. No way to sugar coat it except by saying ST "were not very good".
2. JT was not in any way "coming on" as a returner. Unless he developes something completely new, he's not the guy.
3. I'm slightly concerned that the good news is that we've got 3 long snappers.
4. If you're having trouble imagining it worse, think back to Semerne on kickoffs.

How could any one forget prison tats kicking every other kick off out of bounds?
I think we will be better on coverage and returns due to the fact we have more healthy, athletic, competitive guys looking to contribute right away and this may be the only role they can hang their hat on. I remember the 00's teams where the starters lobbied to get on the ST. If the young guys can bring that hunger our returners will have more lanes to run through.
Punt returners: Pope and Frierson! Kick returners: Bethel and Cam! Kick off team: Wilder Hall Cater Finley Knowles Smith Blades Jackson Choc Bethel and kicker! DJ Dallas is too valuable for offensive schemes.
Jeff Thomas is fast as hell, but he could bump into a fly and fall down.
We've got so many people that excelled in running back punts and ko's in H.S. that its ridiculous. So many good choices

Blocking has been our problem.

Give any of these guys an inch and they will take a mile to the house. So block somebody!!

Also, I hope we finally bring that VT turnover mentality to blocking our opponents kicks.
Your kick returner must be fearless. Hester combined elite vision + speed + fearlessness that’s the required/desired qualities. If Lingard is what we expect (reliable, ready to contribute) in spring and fall camp than I’d put Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas on KO return. They embody those 3 qualities the most. I trust a combination of those two at PR as well. I can just see Homer taking these to the house as an upperclassman.

As previously stated, blocking is the #1 issue of our return teams, no one even touches the opposing team.
Decisiveness is another quality needed. Hester made up his mind very fast and took off full speed towards his plan. Even if he reversed field, u could tell that he had planned to reverse field. He would lead the coverage to one side on purpose (sucker them in) and then explode across the field in search of the opposite sidelines. Elite quick vision helps decisiveness.