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Miami Hurricanes Football 2017 Position Preview: Special Teams

Special Teams look to be a net positive for the Hurricanes in 2017.

North Carolina v Miami
Michael Badgley is preparing to go out with a bang in his final season in a Canes uniform.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Projected Special Teams Depth Chart

Kicker Punter KR PR
Kicker Punter KR PR
Michael Badgley Zach Feagles Braxton Berrios Braxton Berrios
Diego Marquez Jack Spicer Dionte Mullins OR Jeff Thomas Deejay Dallas OR Mike Harley

Key Departures

P Justin Vogel (Graduation/NFL), KR Malcolm Lewis (Graduation/NFL)

Kicker

After back-to-back All-ACC Third Team performances, Michael Badgley will go for gold and a First Team spot in his last season at Miami. Now a senior that earned a scholarship after starting his career as a walk-on, Badgley has been a rock for the Canes as a 3 year starter with one of the most reliable legs of any kicker in the country. He is 60/74 on FG’s for his career, good for 81%, including a perfect 9/9 mark on FG’s from 40-49 yards in 2016, with a career long of 57 yards. Additionally, Badgley was recently named to the Lou Groza Award watch list and will also likely handle kickoffs for Miami in 2017.

If anything happens to Badgley injury-wise, that would be very alarming for the Canes, as no other kicker on the roster is on scholarship or has taken a field goal attempt in their career. Diego Marquez figures to be the next man up as a walk-on from a JUCO in California, but Special Teams Coordinator Todd Hartley would sleep easier if Marquez was not taking big FG’s for Miami in 2017.

Punter

Zach Feagles is ready to take hold of Miami’s punting job in 2017.
247Sports

In 2017, Miami loses their Second Team All-ACC punter in Justin Vogel, who was a steady performer that often won field position battles for the Canes. Walk-on Jack Spicer had the first crack at replacing Vogel this spring but by all accounts, faired pretty poorly. No fear though, as the Canes went out and landed Zach Feagles, who was one of the country’s top recruits at the position and is expected to come in and start after arriving this summer. He was an Under Armour All-American and comes from a decent lineage: his father, Jeff, is in the UM’s Sports Hall of Fame and had a 22-year NFL career.

Returners

Braxton Berrios is back for another year of punt returning magic. He is coming off a season where he took back 19 punts for 215 yards on a respectable 11.3 yards per return, took one to the house against FAMU, and nearly had another touchdown against FSU before being tripped up at the last minute. But the most important number here is “zero”: as in zero fumbles or muffs. While other options may have more speed, Berrios is crafty picking and choosing his moments and the coaches trust him back there to always make the right decision.

The situation is more murky at kick returner, as UM’s primary guy last season was Malcolm Lewis, who is now on the Miami Dolphins. Berrios will surely be in the mix to handle both returning duties, but the Canes have a wealth of return options. Young guys like Dionte Mullins, Jeff Thomas, Deejay Dallas, and Mike Harley will get the opportunity to earn the coaches trust in fall camp and all have an exciting combination of hands and speed to turn into dynamic weapons in Miami’s return warfare.

Florida State v Miami
Berrios (8) is tripped up by the last man on a punt return against FSU.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Bottom Line

You can set it and forget it with Badgley, who is one of the top kickers in the ACC and maybe the nation. Badgley has been through all the pressure-cooker situations that a kicker can go through, and his experience in this facet will be an asset to the Canes when the game is on the line and they are in need of a clutch FG.

Punter will be more worrisome with a true freshman handling the duties, but Feagles has the talent and pedigree to get the job done. He’ll likely have a few freshman hiccups, but expect him to be solid overall.

The coaches love Berrios returning punts and he doesn’t make mistakes. That is something that is invaluable on a unit where one miscue can change the complexion of the game in an instant. Look for one of Mullins, Thomas, Dallas, or Harley to emerge on kick returns and become a star.

Put it all together and the Hurricanes have a special teams crew that should be a net plus as a unit in 2017 to aid in their chase for an ACC title.