CORAL GABLES — Maybe Braxton Berrios will be Miami’s punt returner again.
He’s done fairly well in that regard, finishing 12th nationally and fourth in the ACC in return average (11.32) last year. He was one of 17 players nationally to return two punts of 40-plus yards.
But the Hurricanes rolled out a pair of true freshmen in punt return drills Thursday, which could be seen by the media during our daily practice viewing. Jeff Thomas and DeeJay Dallas fielded punts, under the eye of several Miami coaches, as a full special teams unit ran through its paces.
Berrios — a reliable senior who could have a larger role in the passing game this year — was in coverage as the newcomers caught ’em and jogged upfield. Both looked quick and agile, though each had a few stumbles. Running backs coach Thomas Brown had a few encouraging words for Dallas after a drop. Thomas, as noted in yesterday’s reports, looks like a player who will contribute early.
Like all freshmen, he’s still finding his way. During position-specific drills later in the morning, receivers coach Ron Dugans went hard on Thomas during a shuffle-around-the-defender-and-catch-a-pass drill. The issue, it seemed, was his footwork. Thomas was last in line and had to run the drill again. Those at the front of the line, with the steps down pat: Berrios, Ahmmon Richards, Lawrence Cager, Dayall Harris and Dionte Mullins.
As for the punters, true freshman Zach Feagles produced a few impressive bombs. Compared with redshirt sophomore Jack Spicer, Feagles seems to have the stronger leg, with more hang time, a tighter spiral on most reps, and though he isn’t Justin Vogel-accurate, he was dropping them with reasonable consistency around the goal line.
* Quote of the day: offensive line coach Stacy Searels, who demanded his men shoot their hands with force during a pass-blocking drill. “I want you to break sternums,” he told them.
* Injury report: True freshman linebacker Waynmon Steed (brace on left knee) continues to run off to the side during media viewing. True freshman offensive lineman Zalon’tae Hillery (boot on right ankle/foot) and linebacker Michael Pinckney, a sophomore projected starter, were riding bikes. Pinckney, who has dealt with hamstring issues in the past, wasn’t using his right leg to pedal. Running back Robert Burns (shoulder) remains in a green (no contact) jersey.
* If you’re reading this instead of the news coming out of Dolphins camp, thanks for your patronage.
CANES CAMP 2017
Porter’s video recap, live chat
Perry ‘a passer, not just a thrower’
Injury updates: Burns could miss opener
Video: Perry runs through first drills
Day 1 practice notes: Perry batting third
Photos, videos: Practice footage, field under construction
10 big storylines, how to follow camp
Offseason features, news
A sit-down with Richt, Parts I-IV
Miami gearing up for QB battle
Perry learning, adjusting, impressing
UM’s offense will depend on Walton
Quarterman leading Miami’s defense
LBs motivated by UM’s ‘ghosts of greatness’
Richards hoping to be All-American
Berrios tired of hype
‘The Playmaker’ high on Richards
Winston: Perry’s going to be ‘really good’
Cager angling for a comeback
Richt on swag | Says ‘The U is back’
Richt has really strong sandwich takes
Willis takes leave | Gone: Mayes | Odogwu | Haskins
Other fun stuff
CanesFest set for Aug. 12
Analyzing the 2017 schedule
The Guide to Watching Miami Football
A visual history of Miami football stadiums
Exclusive look at UM’s new alternate jerseys
UM jersey numbers have meaning
The Glossary of Canes player nicknames
Thomas produces music for DJ Khaled
Fun facts from the 2017 media guide
Projecting Miami’s 2018 draft class
Miami’s over-under: 9 wins
UM picked to win the Coastal
Porter’s preseason All-ACC ballot, predictions