Two of the Miami Hurricanes’ most important special teams players will be back when 2021 spring football begins on March 13 and a third is a newcomer with a familiar name.
Miami punter Lou Hedley and long snapper Clay James are both listed on Miami’s spring football roster and are expected to resume their roles as starters in their respective positions. Each had a monster season (in his own way) for the Hurricanes in 2020.
Miami’s familiar newcomer this spring is kicker Andres Borregales, the younger brother of NFL bound kicker Jose Borregales. Andres, the No.2 kicker in the class of 2021 according to 247Sports.com, graduated from Hialeah-Champagnat Catholic in December and enrolled early at Miami in January.
Despite being a true freshman, he is expected to take over the kicking duties from his brother. This practice video proves Borregales has the length strength to handle long field goals and kickoffs for Miami.
Miami also has kicker Camden Price on the spring roster, who was 6-for-7 on field goal attempts during the 2019 season.
Hedley averaged 47.2 yards per punt in 2020 and was a second team All-American. Jose Borregales won the Lou Groza award after going 20-for-22 on field goals and making every extra point he attempted. James was nearly flawless long snapping the ball in 11 games.
While Miami’s specialists were outstanding in 2020, the rest of the Hurricanes’ special teams was mediocre at best. Miami struggled with mental and physical errors on coverage and return units.
How much time the Hurricanes will actually spend working on special teams situations this spring remains to be seen. It would serve them well however to make improvements in the following special teams components in 2021:
- Punt return. Miami ranked No. 121 out of 127 FCS teams in average punt return yardage during the 2020 season. An unacceptable statistic for a team with Miami’s athleticism. This is in addition to the gaffs fielding the ball that seemed to happen far too often. The Hurricanes need to find a reliable returner this spring to compete with incoming freshman Malik Curtis for reps this fall.
- Kick return defense. Miami was No. 101 of 127 FCS in kick return defense in the 2020 season. This of course includes the kick return for a touchdown allowed against NC State in the Hurricanes’ come-from-behind victory. Miami only had to defend 17 of 51 kickoffs last season because of Jose Borregales’ 34 touchbacks. With a new kicker coming in, who knows if Miami will need to make more tackles on kickoff this season or not. The Hurricanes need to improve on their average of 23.59 yards allowed per kickoff either way.
- Unit continuity. This will likely happen naturally as COVID-19 protocols hopefully become less of a concern for NCAA teams this fall. But it seemed that Miami was constantly replacing players because of unavailability, injuries, or other reasons on nearly every special teams unit. This makes optimal performance tough as replacement players are always learning on the fly. With 19 of 22 offensive and defensive starters returning, Miami should have enough depth to play the same players more consistently on special teams in 2021.
The name of the game for Miami’s special teams this spring and fall? Keep the specialists performing at the level seen in 2020 and bring the coverage and return teams up to match that excellence.