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Should Miami consider using a different kicker for short field goals?

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Miami starting kicker Bubba Baxa is just 4-for-8 on field goals this season

Miami v North Carolina
Bubba Baxa (21) and Will Mallory (85) react to Baxa’s missed field goal against North Carolina in the first half on September 7. Baxa is just 4-for-8 on field goals during the 2019 season.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

It has been no secret that Miami sophomore kicker Bubba Baxa has struggled in the Hurricanes’ first three games during the 2019 season.

Baxa is just 4-for-8 on field goals and had an extra point attempt blocked in Miami’s 28-25 loss to North Carolina on September 7.

While 50 percent on field goals is concerning, what is most perplexing about Baxa’s situation is that he is just 1-for-4 on kicks from 20-30 yards out this season.

Baxa’s misses from 30 yards or closer have come from 27 yards out (against Florida in the fourth quarter), 26 yards out (against North Carolina in the second quarter) and 30 yards out (against Bethune-Cookman in the first quarter).

This begs the question, at what point does Miami consider using another player on the roster for shorter field goals? Baxa also missed a 28-yard field goal against Florida State in 2018, bringing his total to four field goals 30 yards or less missed in his 16-game Miami career.

Baxa went 9-for-12 on field goals overall during his freshman season in 2018 but came to Miami having made just 40 percent of his kicks during his senior year of high school in 2017.

Is it time for the Hurricanes to consider someone else for short kicks?

The Precedent Has Been Set by Nick Saban

The Hurricanes certainly would not be the first team to use different kickers to attempt field goals of different distances in a game if they chose to make the move.

Over the years, Alabama struggled terribly at times in the kicking game and Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban has employed this strategy to help fix some of his team’s issues on field goals.

When Alabama won the national championship in 2012, it had two different kickers attempt nine or more field goals throughout the season. Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster split attempts, with Shelley typically handling kicks under 42 yards, and Foster attempting the longer field goals.

Shelley was 11-for-11 on shorter kicks that season while Foster was 4-for-9 on longer kicks. Twice during the year they each made a kick in the same game.

While the idea certainly isn’t popular amongst college football teams, Saban using it proves it isn’t crazy either. Playing to your kicking specialists’ strengths helps your percentage of made kicks go up, and that is what Miami drastically needs right now.

Other Options on the Roster

As you know, this is not the NFL and Miami cannot just go find another scholarship kicker in the middle of a season if it wants to replace Baxa in any of his roles.

And let’s be clear: I am not suggesting that Miami should replace Baxa on kickoffs or even on longer field goals. Baxa’s only miss from 40+ yards this season was the game-tying kick against North Carolina in game’s final seconds.

While that was certainly a frustrating miss, Baxa did drill a 50-yarder earlier in that game and made a 42-yard field goal in the first half against Florida. It is also extremely unlikely that Miami has a player behind Baxa on the depth chart capable of outperforming him on long kicks because if it did, he would be above the Texas native on the depth chart already.

Who would be the candidates to replace Baxa on shorter kicks if Miami decided to do so?

The Hurricanes list redshirt sophomore Turner Davidson and redshirt freshman Camden Price on the roster as walk-on kickers. Miami also has scholarship punter Louis Hedley and walk-on punter Jack Spicer.

Don’t expect Miami to use Hedley at kicker, according to Manny Navarro of The Athletic.

After spending his freshman season as a walk-on at Florida and never attempting a field goal in a game, Spicer has never attempted a field goal in a game at the University of Miami in his three seasons either. It seems very unlikely Spicer would start kicking field goals now.

That leaves Davidson and Price, true kickers by trade.

Price would appear at least to be Miami’s backup kicker right now as he was 2-for-2 on extra point attempts in the fourth quarter of Miami’s 63-0 victory over Bethune-Cookman on Saturday.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, former tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Todd Hartley recruited Price to Miami as a preferred walk-on after watching him make a 60-yard field goal in practice.

Price was 36-for-38 on extra points and 3-for-5 on field goals with a long of 28 yards during his senior season in 2017 at Severn (Md.) Archbishop Spalding. He was 2-for-2 on field goals with a long of 37 yards during his junior season.

Davidson was named the Most Improved Specialist during spring football at Miami in 2018, according to 247Sports.com. He got the opportunity to attempt more field goals in high school than Price did as he finished his career at San Antonio (Tx.) Ronald Reagan 11-for-15 on field goal attempts with a long of 43 yards and was a perfect 36-for-36 on extra points.

Neither Price nor Davidson would be on the roster at Miami if they were not capable of making short field goals. Their high school statistics prove they have the leg strength and accuracy to do so.

The coaching staff is aware of what each can do and would need to project what each could potentially do in a game situation for Miami compared to what Baxa has done and/or could do in the future for the Hurricanes.

Only the coaches know if a move like this would be realistic right now because of where Price and Davidson are in their Miami careers or because of what it might do to Baxa’s confidence for long field goals.

This is not an easy situation for Manny Diaz and his coaching staff to be in, but it is necessary to look at all of the options on the table if Baxa continues to miss short field goals.

Poll

Should Miami replace Bubba Baxa on short field goals?

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  • 86%
    Yes
    (285 votes)
  • 13%
    No
    (46 votes)
331 votes total Vote Now