The Miami Hurricanes special teams unit had quite a few ups and downs this season. Michael Badgley and Braxton Berrios provided a calm hand of experience and consistency, but freshman punter Zach Feagles and freshman kick returners Jeff Thomas and DeeJay Dallas made some poor decisions and plays. Ultimately the special teams were a solid, but not spectacular, part of the Hurricanes’ season, but there were a few standouts:
Most Valuable Player: Kicker Michael Badgley (Sr.)
2017 Statistics: 17-23 on FGs, 45-46 on Extra Points, 32 Touchbacks
Michael Badgley is one of the best kickers in the history of Miami Hurricanes football. He was nearly automatic from close range this past season, despite his miss in the Orange Bowl, and the senior kicker also managed to go 45-46 on Extra Points. Badgley also broke Carlos Huerta’s school records for field goals made and points scored this past season. In addition to his statistical accomplishments, Badgley brought several intangibles to the table, he was a solid kickoff man, and rarely had kicks out of bounds, which helped Miami win the field position battle. Badgley was also a leader in the locker room, and was voted as a team captain several times throughout the season. Unfortunately, Badgley will no longer be the Hurricanes’ starting kicker next season, and will likely be replaced by the No.1 kicking recruit in the nation, Bubba Baxa.
Most Improved Player: Punt Returner Braxton Berrios (Sr.)
2017 Statistics: 13 Returns for 207yds, 15.9yds per return
Braxton Berrios was a stellar punt returner for several seasons at the University of Miami, however, in his senior season, Berrios improved to become one of the best in the country. One of the reasons Braxton is such a fantastic punt returner is because he understands when to attempt a return and when to call for a fair catch. In several cases, Berrios made the smart choice by taking the fair catch instead of going for a return that could result in a loss of yardage, or worse, a turnover. Berrios was also extremely elusive on his punt returns, he often managed to shake several tackle attempts and gain extra yardage. In addition to all this, Braxton’s biggest returns came in the biggest moments, most notably against Florida State, when Braxton had a 44 yard return up the sideline that fired up the Hurricanes offense, which at the time had scored zero points. Berrios will undoubtedly be missed, not only in the wide receiver’s room, but also in the special teams room.
Rookie of the Year: Zach Feagles (Fr.)
2017 Statistics: 2777yds on 72 punts, 25 downed inside the 20, 8 over 50yds.
Zach Feagles had his fair share of ups and downs throughout the season, with many Miami fans disappointed in his occasional bad punt. While these types of punts are inexcusable, especially if this team wants to compete for a playoff berth next season, it should be noted that Feagles was only a freshman. Also, besides these occasional bad punts, Feagles was an extremely solid, and precise punter. He showed flashes of ability to have incredibly long punts, as he had eight punts over fifty yards on the season, and he also managed to pin teams deep several times, downing twenty-five punts inside the twenty yard line. Feagles undoubtedly needs to improve his consistency, but as a true freshman punter he put together a very respectable season, and should improve even more next year. The ceiling is incredibly high for Feagles.