Don’t give up on punter Zach Feagles, says University of Miami special teams coordinator Todd Hartley.
Hartley certainly isn’t.
Soon after legacy Miami Hurricane true freshman Al Blades Jr., the son of late star UM safety Al Blades Sr., was named a special teams captain for Saturday’s game at Toledo, Hartley was asked about Feagles, another current Cane whose father Jeff was a star punter at UM and won a national championship there in 1987.
Jeff Feagles played in the NFL for 22 seasons and was a two-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants at age 41 after the 2007 season (2008 Super Bowl).
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Zach Feagles, a 6-2, 220-pound sophomore out of Ridgewood (New Jersey) High School, struggled with three shanks in his opening game against LSU. He punted twice last Saturday against Savannah State, once for 55 yards and the other time a 33-yarder that went out of bounds at the Savannah State 42-yard line.
After that, backup Jack Spicer came in for a 34-yard punt that was downed at the Savannah State 18-yard line.
Feagles also struggled much of last season, averaging 38.6 yards on 72 punts. It didn’t help when special teams failed to adequately protect him for his first punt this season against LSU, and Feagles narrowly avoided getting his kick blocked.
“… “I think he feels the pressure more than anybody else, to be honest with you,’’ Hartley said of Feagles. “He knows. Think about it, he’s a very conscientious kid. He understands he was brought here to do a job and our standard is to the best in the country. That is our goal and we are not there right now. He understands that more than anybody else. Trust me, if you look at who he has on that unit with him. He has Jaquan Johnson, Shaq Quarterman, Travis Homer, Demetrius Jackson, Amari Carter, Al Blades.
“Those are the guys he has on that unit with him. He understands they’re holding a very high standard and he has to hold a very high standard as well. The kid is working his butt off. I told you last time that I believe he’s going to get there and I do believe he’s going to get there.
“If for some reason he doesn’t, we’ll try Spicer. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll find somebody else in the offseason. But at this point right now the only thing we can do is promote that kid and give that kid every opportunity to get out of this funk. That’s what it is. Because when he gets out here man — and I know practice is different than games — he gets out here he shows us what he can do. We’ve just got to translate that to big games. So, we’re giving him an opportunity to get out of this thing.”
As a high school recruit, Zach Feagles earned a three-star rating from ESPN and Scout.com and was rated two stars by Rivals and 247Sports. He chose Miami over offers from Rutgers and North Carolina.
▪ UM coach Mark Richt said Thursday on a teleconference that Ahmmon Richards, who sustained a knee injury against LSU, will sit out Saturday against Toledo. It will be his second consecutive game sitting out. Richt did not elaborate on the injury or a timetable for his return.
Richards was plagued with hamstring, ankle and knee injuries last season, and had his season cut short in late November for knee surgery.
“Just, he won’t be playing,’’ Richt said of Richards. “Ahmmon, he’s a strong kid. He’s a real smart kid. But he’s human. We’re just going to take care of him. That’s the best I can say it.’’
▪ Defensive end Demetrius Jackson, who also sustained a knee injury against LSU and missed last weekend’s game, will return Saturday, Richt said.
▪ Richt mentioned that true freshman defensive end Greg Rousseau is recovering from surgery on Wednesday and said he didn’t know how long Rousseau, who broke his right ankle, will be out. “It won’t be any time soon,’’ the coach said.
▪ Richt would not specify the depth-chart status of true freshman running back Lorenzo Lingard, who rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns on four carries against Savannah State but has been getting reps during media viewing behind several other backs.
“I don’t know if it’s so much moving up the depth chart or getting the quality reps that you need to be prepared to go in the game,’’ Richt said. “I’m not sure who would be the third back in the game, to be honest with you. We’re preparing him and others to get ready to play.
“Guys did get a chance to play last week. That was helpful. Lorenzo certainly helped his cause by being productive, highly productive. Now it’s still a matter of understanding the game plan and making sure he can handle all of it and not just part of it. He’s working diligently. I love his work ethic. He’s getting better every day. He’s getting closer to really understanding everything we’re doing and why. It just takes reps and it takes opportunities. He’s earning those opportunities.”