Grading the Canes: Special Teams

The Hurricanes were good in some areas and bad in others when it came to the special teams units on Saturday night. Lets take a closer look at those areas and find out where the Canes need the most improvement.

Kicking: B
The most productive play of the day for the Hurricanes, and the play that prevented a shutout for the Gators, was from the leg of Matt Bosher. His 50-yard field goal in the second quarter was huge. It was a career long and in a tough situation. Ever since he came out of Jupiter High rated as the No. 1 kicker in the country, he's always had plenty of leg. It's just a matter of whether or not he's going to be accurate all the time. If he can keep making field goals like that, it'll be a major weapon for the Canes -- especially in tight games down the stretch. He averaged 65.7 yards on his three kickoffs wirh no touchbacks. Even though that was slightly more than what Florida's kicker averaged, it was about average and put the ball into the hands of one of the nation's premier return men (Brandon James) each time.

Punting: C-
Bosher got off eight punts for 328 yards, which averaged out to be 41.0 yards per punt. Four of his nine punts went inside the 20 and two of his nine resulted in fair catches. Those numbers are pretty solid and would rank among the best in the ACC if they were maintained throughout the season. Unfortunately, his first punt of the day was a shank and helped set up a short field for Florida's offense, which resulted in the first touchdown of the game for the Gators. He also had the block at the end of the first half, which totally changed the momentum of the game going into halftime. It wasn't on Bosher, however, as it seemed like Florida had too many guys on the left side of the defense to block. JoJo Nicolas had to pick one of the two and Jeff Demps came free, unblocked, for the block. As solid as the punting numbers were for the entire game, one could argue that even with an average punting game in the first half, Miami should have been up 3-0 going into halftime. So despite the solid effort by Bosher on most of the his punts, the shank and block that led to Florida's first nine points make the overall performance below average at best.

Return Game: B-
The Canes had a total of five opportunities on returns -- three on kickoffs and two on punts. Ryan Hill took his kickoff back 26 yards, while Brandon Harris took the two of his returns for a total of 34 yards. The Canes averaged just 20 yards per return, which would put them somewhere in the middle-to-lower half of the college football rankings. Graig Cooper took his only punt return back 15 yards, while Thearon Collier took his back five yards. The 10 yards per return is considered above average in college football. Look for the numbers to improve as the season goes on since the Gators will have one of the fastest and most talented coverage units the Canes will face all season.

Coverage Units: C-
The Gators averaged 27.3 yards per kickoff return, which would have ranked 116th in the nation last season of the 119 Division 1A schools. The 14.8 average on four punt returns would have ranked 115th last season. Obviously, those are terrible numbers and the fact that Bosher had to make three tackles in this game is not a good sign. Sure, Brandon James is one of the most explosive return men in college football but the Canes have to get better -- much better -- on their coverage units if they want to have any type of special teams advantage over most of their opponents this season. James averaged 28 yards per return last season and averaged just under that in this game. James finished second in college football last season in punt returns, averaging 18 per return. He averaged just over 16 per return in this game so the Canes did a little better than the average Florida opponent last season. James, who had six of Florida's seven returns in this game, will most likely be the most dangerous return man the Canes face all season.


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