Last week we took an in-depth look at redshirt-freshman fullback DJ Washington in part one of a series focusing on overlooked players-at-underrated positions, as we await the much-anticipated 2017 season.
This piece comes on the heels of Coach Mark Richt’s recent addition of Texas kicker Bubba Baxa, further solidifying the kicking game in a post-Michael Badgley world. And while Diego Marquez and Baxa should compete for the role of starting placekicker in 2018, the void left by the atomic right leg of Justin Vogel also leaves two viable contenders for the job of punter at the University of Miami.
Incoming freshman Zach Feagles is the offspring of the greatest punter in program history. When discussing Miami’s best-of-the-best at each position, a case could be made for a handful of nominees as the “G.O.A.T.”
Erickson, Dorsey, Kosar, Testaverde, Torretta, or Walsh at quarterback; Dennison, Franks, Olsen, Shockey, or Winslow at tight end.
But when it comes to punters, Jeff Feagles, Mr. Coffin Corner himself, was hands down, the greatest punter to ever wear the orange and green.
So naturally, many have anointed Feagles 2.0 as the the replacement for Vogel. However, the Canes already have a more-than-capable punter on the roster in redshirt-sophomore Jack Spicer.
The 6-3, 220-pounder from Estero, Fla arrived on campus in 2016 via the University of Florida, following a transfer after just one year in Alachua County.
Prior to walking on with the rival Gators, Spicer was a 2014 first team All-Area selection by the Naples Daily News as a tight end.
Having never kicked prior to his junior year of high school, Spicer went on to average 37.4 yards on 13 punts as a senior.
Meanwhile, pulling a UF-to-Miami switcheroo leaves Spicer in some darn good company. Let’s not forget that Vogel also transferred from that school up in Gainesville and he worked out pretty well during his two seasons as the starting punter.
Vogel’s predecessor, Pat O’Donnell was a sixth round pick in 2014 after transferring from Cincinnati to Miami, awarding UM a recent string of success stories with transfer punters, so let’s not rule out Spicer just yet.
As for Zach Feagles, he is the youngest son of a man that needs no introduction in South Florida – he may not need an introduction in Miami but he’s WAY overdue for an INDUCTION in Canton – Miami Hurricane and National Football League legend, Jeff Feagles. Jeff was a member of the 1987 University of Miami National Championship squad, a two-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion while owning the NFL record for most punting yards, total punts, and punts inside the 20.
Like Spicer, who snared passes and chip blocked defensive ends in high school, Zach Feagles isn’t your stereotypical kicker. At 6-3, 215 pounds, the Ridgewood New Jersey native punished defenders as the starting fullback in Ridgewood High’s wing-T offense, averaging 95 yards a game and tallying 22 TDs on the ground as a senior. In the kicking game, he averaged 36.7 yards on 19 punts with seven of those downed inside the 20 and a long of 48 yards.
His Maroons squad would go on to claim the 2016 State Championship with a perfect 12-0 record.
During his junior season, he averaged 40 yards on 24 punts with 5 downed inside the 20 and a long of 57. The Maroons finished the 2015 season with a 9-3 record.
As a sophomore on a 5-5 squad, he punted 16 times for an average of 29.8 yards with 2 inside the 20 and a long of 50.
247sports ranked Zach Feagles as the No. 5 punter in the nation and SB Nation’s stateoftheu.com posted an evaluation from Kohls Kicking that had this to say:
His strength is his rhythm, he can get hot and stay hot when punting. He has continued to increase the command of his drop. His leg strength has improved dramatically over the last six months. Feagles is doing a great job of figuring out his body and how to adjust it to hit different types of punts. He is one of the best athletes in the 2017 class and has huge upside.
At the end of the day, whether its Spicer or Feagles that pins offenses deep in their own territory and provides momentum for a nasty Canes defense, one thing is for certain, the competition on Greentree will once again yield greatness – from Rosier, Shirreffs, and Perry at the top of the depth chart, all the way down to special teams.