A season ago, Miami’s lack of consistency on special teams was felt in almost every contest. Zach Feagles and Jack Spicer split starting reps, with them both struggling to reach the 40-yard mark combined. This put the ‘Canes at 115th in the nation in terms of punting average.
This offseason, the ‘Canes picked up the tattooed and confident Australian punter, Louis Hedley. The hype surrounding him was astounding, but how did he perform in Miami’s season opener?
Hedley punted 4 times on an average of 42.5-yards, with a long of 49. None of his punts landed inside Florida’s 20-yard line, however, Hedley was often punting close to his own goalline.
By the end of the game, Louis Hedley had a fine performance. He didn’t send any punts off the side of his foot into the sideline — he did his job. Hopefully, in the coming weeks he won’t have to deal with as much congestion and pressure as he had to face against Florida — we should expect his average to increase.
Bubba Baxa entered the season opener coming off of a successful 2018 season, converting on 9 of 12 field-goal attempts for a 75% average. Baxa was also a perfect 6 for 6 in between 30 and 39-yards. His first season built confidence, as he did all of the above as a true freshman.
Baxa got off to a solid start against the Gators, converting attempts from 36 and 42-yards in the first half. It seemed that Baxa had picked up where he left off — although he did miss an important, chip-shot field goal in the 4th quarter.
The missed kick didn’t technically lose Miami the game, but it would’ve given the ‘Canes a 23-17 lead, and helped keep the momentum on their side. Even if Florida still scored a touchdown, Miami would’ve been able to reclaim the lead with another field goal attempt. Ultimately, this is just speculation, as anything could have happened — the result is still a Miami loss. It shows the importance of consistency though, as a 27-yard field goal should always be made.
In conclusion, the kicking game is extremely noticeable when it goes wrong. Thankfully, Miami seems to have improved at the punter position thus far, and Bubba Baxa should still have a decently efficient season if he can match similar totals as last year.