University of Miami

Manny Diaz says there’s an ‘ongoing’ race between UM’s kickers ahead of Georgia Tech

Amid the quarrel over whether N’Kosi Perry or Jarren Williams will be the Miami Hurricanes’ starting quarterback on Saturday is another UM position battle: the kicker.

After Miami (3-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) went with Turner Davidson against Virginia instead of usual kicker Bubba Baxa, coach Manny Diaz is leaving the competition open for either guy to be the Hurricanes’ kicker when they face Georgia Tech (1-5, 0-3 ACC) at noon Saturday. And he said it could be a game-time decision.

Baxa, who has missed a field goal in three of his four appearances this season, including two misses in Miami’s loss to North Carolina, is 5 of 9 on field-goal attempts and has made 15 of 17 extra points.

One of his missed extra points came at a crucial time in the Hurricanes’ loss to Virginia Tech. He missed a PAT in the fourth quarter that would have given Miami a one-point advantage.

The following week against Virginia, after Davidson was perfect (1 for 1 on field goals and 2 for 2 on PATs). Diaz said afterward that the decision to go with Davidson came down to how he performed in pregame warmups.

“He’s been with us for a little while now and has gotten better,” Diaz said after the win. ” ... He had a really good week, and when we got to the warm up today, he was, without a doubt, the better guy in the warm up.”

And after Wednesday’s practice, Diaz didn’t rule out the possibility of this week’s kicker being another last-minute decision among Baxa, Davidson and even redshirt freshman Camden Price, who was unavailable the previous two games due to unspecified reasons.

“It could,” Diaz said. “We ended practice today, and all three went up there, and they missed one [kick]. And all three went up there, and they made one. It’s something that, the more snaps we put on them and the more pressure we put them under, the better off they’ll be for that. So, right now, that race is still ongoing.”

Rousseau’s fall camp

Earlier this week, Diaz said defensive end Gregory Rousseau, who has been one of the Hurricanes’ top pass rushers this season, “did not have a great training camp.”

“For whatever reason ... He had a much better spring than training camp,” Diaz said. “And Greg knows that.”

When asked Wednesday why he struggled during fall camp, Rousseau said his back hindered him.

“I had a little strain in my back,” the redshirt freshman said. “That slowed me down. It’s OK. I put that behind me. It wasn’t a big deal. Even though I wasn’t starting, I just knew I had to keep on working. It doesn’t really matter what my role is, as long as I just keep working hard and stay humble, good things will come.”

The back strain hasn’t seemed to slow him down so much during the season. He leads the team in sacks (five) and tackles for loss (7.5), and in his first career start against Virginia, he recorded two tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.

“I’m good now,” Rousseau said. “I’ve been good for a minute, since, like, mid-August.”

This and That

Diaz said defensive end Trevon Hill has made week-to-week improvement since arriving from Virginia Tech ahead of the 2019 season, and that improvement has shown in his production. “The reps that he missed by not being here for spring ball,” Diaz said, “and even his limitations in training camp, he had to play the different types of blocks, the zone reads, a little bit different than what he’s used to in the past … What we love about him is that he’s a very high-effort, high-motor guy, great attitude, been a great presence in our locker room, so he’s been a great addition to our team.”

Diaz on the play of veteran linebackers Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinkney, who he said had their best performance of the season against Virginia Tech with 12 total tackles and two tackles for loss between: “With Shaq and Pinckney ... it’s really about your best players being your best players down the stretch. And that was the challenge going into the Virginia game last week. It’s gonna very hard for us to be a great football team if our great players ... don’t play great ... And I keep pushing those guys, ‘Make the guys around you better in terms of your knowledge of whats gonna come nest. You can influence the guys around you and make the other guys play better.’ ”

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