The Hurricanes will have a new starting kicker this season, and the expectation is that it will be true freshman Bubba Baxa.
With the departure of Michael Badgley, the Hurricanes brought in Baxa as part of their 2018 recruiting class. The Texas native, who was not enrolled at UM in time for spring practices, enters with high expectations as the top kicker in the Kohl’s Kicking rankings for the 2018 class.
Baxa hasn’t disappointed yet, but camp is just one week old.
“He’s everything that we thought he would be,” special teams coordinator Todd Hartley said Wednesday. “Strong leg, kid that’s very composed. He doesn’t falter in the moment. We’ve put him out here live against the defense in front of the head coach and he’s answered the bell. Only five practices and we only do about six kicks a day in front of the head coach — they work on their field all day long — but through five practices, he’s shown everything that we thought that he would show. He’s doing a nice job.”
Hartley said the longest field goal Baxa has made in practice was “in the 50 range,” adding: “He’s got the leg. Don’t worry about that, he’s got that.”
How has Baxa’s kicking accuracy been? “Really good,” Hartley answered.
In other special teams news, Hartley said Jeff Thomas and DeeJay Dallas are the top two candidates to return kick and punts.
Braxton Berrios was the Hurricanes’ primary punt returner last season, but he is now preparing for his rookie season with the Patriots. Thomas was the primary kick returner last season.
“Right now, we said it in spring and we said it over the summer that Dallas and Thomas were our main guys and they continue to be the front-runners to win those positions,” Hartley said. “But Mark Pope has shown up and done some nice things. Mike Harley is still back there. Nigel Bethel is back there a little bit. But right now, Jeff Thomas and DeeJay Dallas are so far ahead of everybody else right now, it’s really a two-man race in that regard.”
Hartley also said that sophomore punter Zach Feagles is having a “great camp.” With Feagles as the starting punter last season, the Hurricanes ranked 105th in the country with a net punting average of 36.3 yards.
“Absolutely, 100 percent, night and day,” Hartley said. “Great camp. Great camp for Feagles.”
COVERAGE FROM DAY 6 OF FALL CAMP
COVERAGE FROM DAY 5 OF FALL CAMP
COVERAGE FROM DAY 4 OF FALL CAMP
COVERAGE FROM DAY 3 OF FALL CAMP