Miami Hurricanes returners still undetermined after spring practice

Dec 5, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA;. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 5, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA;. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Hurricanes ended spring practice how they began on special teams without a clear player seizing the lead to be the top kickoff or punt returner in 2021. Miami finished 59th in 2020 averaging 20.55 yards per kickoff return in 2020 and 123rd out of 127 FBS teams averaging 2.5 yards per punt return.

Mark Pope led Miami averaging 22.2 yards per kickoff return and 5.3 yards per punt return in 2020. Pope also struggled with muffing one punt each against Clemson and Florida State that were recovered by the Tigers and Seminoles. Mike Harley was the more frequent kickoff returns with 10 returns for 213 yards.

Jaylan Knighton who might be the most explosive player on the Miami Hurricanes offense had six kickoff returns in 2020 for 118 yards, a 19.7 YPR average. Safety Gurvan Hall, Harley and wide receiver Xavier Restrepo each returned three punts for Miami in 2020. Cornerback Tyrique Stevenson was tried on punt returns this spring.

Harley only had 15 yards in punt returns, Restrepo nine and Hall had returns for a loss of four yards. Playing for Georgia in 2020, Stevenson had two punt returns for 37 yards. Stevenson had a 23-yard punt return in the Bulldogs season opener against Arkansas and a 14-yard return in week nine against Missouri.

Wide receiver Charleston Rambo who transferred to Miami from Oklahoma during the offseason has worked on kickoff and punt returns this spring. Rambo returned 13 kickoffs for 255 yards which is 25.5 YPR and had one punt return for 11 yards during his three seasons with the Sooners.

Rambo will a key player to the Miami offense in 2021 and Stevenson the likely top CB on defense. Having either or both of them returning kicks is risky. While both had good numbers on returns with their former teams, neither is the consistent game-changer returning kicks that Miami has frequently had in their history.

Stevenson has worked on kickoff returns in addition to punt returns and has been joined by Restrepo in addition to those mentioned above. Miami has to improve on returns in 2021. A quality return man can change the course of a game even subtly. Manny Diaz has frequently spoken about field position.

dark. Next. Manny Diaz believe Charleston Rambo deep threat needed

With Andres Borregales at kicker and Lou Hedley punting Miami will often opponents in poor field position to start a drive. Miami has to be able to do the opposite by putting their own offense in better field position by having at least an above-average return game. Miami has the talent to have good returners.