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Do the Canes Have Enough to Contend: Special Teams

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Miami’s Special Teams contributed to losses in 2019 and they must be better in 2020.

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida International Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami has 1 goal every year, and that is to win a National Championship in football. Yes, there are other small goals along the way, including beating FSU, winning the Coastal, getting to and winning the ACC title, but the ultimate goal is to put Championship trophy #6 in the trophy case. Unfortunately, outside of 2005 and 2017, the Canes haven’t been in the discussion past the month of September in most years. The question has always come up, whether it was coaching, QB play, or the overall talent on the field.

This will be part 9 of a 10 part series where I ask the question, do the Canes have enough to contend for the College Football Playoffs?

The Canes were anything but special on special teams in 2019. Field goal kicking, or lack thereof, cost Miami at least 3 games, and potentially more because Manny Diaz had to eschew kicking short field goals to leave his offense on the field due to lack of trust in the kicking game. In college making 45 yard field goals and in, should be pretty close to automatic, but the Canes couldn’t even make sub 30 yarders. Bubba Baxa, Camden Price and Turner Davidson aka “McKickin” all tried but failed to hold down the job, so the Canes had to hit the transfer portal. In steps Jose Borregales and Miami will be ecstatic if he can duplicate his last season at FIU. Punting was very solid as Louis Hedley came in from JUCO and solidified a position that was brutal in 2018. Miami will lose both return men as Jeff Thomas and KJ Osborn have moved on to the NFL.

Kicking Should be Better

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 22 FIU at Miami Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jose Borregales trash talked the Canes during FIU’s 30-24 upset back in November, but he hit the portal and came across town to play for the hometown Hurricanes. Borregales was 21-29 on FG’s, but hit 8-10 from 40 plus yards. For his career he is 50/66 on field goal attempts, and has only missed 3 extra points throughout his 3 seasons at FIU. Miami desperately just needs to make XP’s and easily makeable kicks, and Jose Borregales will give Miami exactly what they need. Camden Price and Turner Davidson are still on the roster if anything goes wrong with Borregales, and Bubba Baxa left for Houston.

Tattoo’d and Worth the Hype

Virginia v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Louis Hedley arrived a year ago with a ton of offseason chatter, which was more about his tattoos than his on field acumen, but the Aussie was able to come into Miami and solidify a bad punting game. Hedley averaged 43.9 yards per punt which was good enough for 26th in the country, and with a plethora of different punting styles he was able to either boom punts deep, or wedge them in for good positioning. Miami has very solid footing punting the ball, which is a far cry from where they were 2 short years ago.

Who’s Returning The Ball?

Miami has always had a great return game, and will have to replace a couple of play-makers from the 2019 squad. Jeff Thomas always had potential to break a huge gain as the punt returner, and will definitely be missed. KJ Osborn averaged 20.1 yards per kick return and 15.9 yards per punt return, but is gone to the NFL. The Canes were good returning punts, finishing 10th in the country, but were just 68th in kick returns, so improvement can be had in that area. Miami will be young, but should have some explosive options in the return game. Xavier Restrepo, Jaylan Knighton, and Mark Pope seem to be leading candidates, but with spring practice basically cancelled, someone will need to step up in the fall. Miami also must improve kickoff coverage, where they were 110th in FBS in kick return coverage.

Verdict:

While Miami should be much improved in the kicking game, but the lack of experience in the return game scares me. Jose Borregales will help Miami win a couple of extra games, but overall this is not a college football playoff group. Lou Hedley is a monster punter, which should greatly help the field position battle, but the kick coverage and kick returns must improve. Miami has a ton of young and exciting playmakers, and the best way to make an immediate impact is on special teams. Last year special teams were a liability, which should not be the case in 2020.

Go Canes

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