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Will Miami’s kicking game improve in 2020?

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FIU transfer Jose Borregales is tasked with transforming Miami’s worst portion of its special teams unit

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 Miami at FIU
New Miami Hurricanes kicker Jose Borregales celebrates his 50-yard field goal against the Hurricanes in the second quarter of FIU’s victory over Miami in November 2019.
Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Miami’s introduction to new kicker Jose Borregales was not a pleasant one.

Borregales kicked two 50-yard or longer field goals and scored 12 points (three field goals, three extra points) in Florida International’s monumental upset of Miami in November 2019.

Just under two months later, the South Florida native announced he was transferring to Miami to serve as Miami’s kicker for the 2020 season, his final year of NCAA eligibility.

What is Miami getting in Borregales specifically? His 2019 statistics at FIU show he was generally reliable after a rough start to the season.

Borregales was 21-for-29 (72.4 percent) on field goals for FIU in 2019 and just under 59 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks.

For comparison, Miami’s kickers were 12-for-20 (60 percent) on field goals in 2019 and just over 55 percent of Bubba Baxa’s kickoffs wound up being touchbacks.

FIU coach Butch Davis showed plenty of trust in Borregales last season allowing him to attempt five field goals in a game on two different occasions and three or more field goals in a game six times.

This trust never wavered throughout FIU’s season despite Borregales going just 2-for-6 on field goal attempts in the Panthers’ first four games of the season. He was 19-for-23 in FIU’s final nine games.

A 2-for-6 start or something similar would bring horrible deja vu to Hurricane fans in 2020. Baxa started last season 5-for-10 on field goal attempts including huge misses in losses to Florida and North Carolina.

Where Borregales will help right away is simply giving Manny Diaz a kicker that he can trust. There were several times last season where Miami’s offense drove into field goal range only to see Diaz opt to go for a first down conversion on fourth down because he did not trust Baxa, Camden Price or Turner Davidson to make the field goal attempt.

Borregales made four 50+ yard field goals in his career with FIU. While the goal of new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee’s spread offense certainly won’t be field goals, it will be comforting for the coaching staff knowing that a drive that stalls on the opponent’s 35-yard line won’t have to result in a punt.

Should Borregales struggle kicking field goals, Miami does still have Price and Davidson listed on the 2020 roster. Price was 6-for-7 on field goal attempts last season while Davidson was 1-for-3.

The former Miami Booker T. Washington High kicker will surely handle kickoffs for the Hurricanes in 2020 however. Miami ranked No. 114 out of 130 in kick return defense during the 2019 season as the Hurricanes gave up just under 24 yards per kick return.

While that wasn’t all Baxa’s fault, having a kicker who can give you a higher percentage of kickoffs that go for touchbacks just means less big plays given up in the return game.

One thing is certain, Miami’s kicking game must improve in 2020 and Borregales will be tasked with making that happen.