AT A GLANCE
RETURNING STARTERS: Senior PK Noel Ruiz*, sophomore P Michael Hayes
RETURNING CONTRIBUTORS: Redshirt freshman PK Kade Loggins
NEW NAMES: Freshman P-PK Tristan Lyon
KEY LOSSES: None
* = projected starter
Special teams is one of the most unrewarding positions on the football field, and heading into 2020, the Panthers lost an All Sun Belt caliber place kicker in Brandon Wright. Luckily for them, North Carolina A&T grad transfer Noel Ruiz picked up where Wright left off and had himself one of the best place-kicking seasons in the conference. Ruiz went 13 of 16 on his field goals (good for a made field goal percentage of .812) and missed only two extra points. Ruiz’s season was good enough to earn him 1st team All-Sun Belt Conference honors and the accolade 2020 LendingTree Bowl Special Teams Player of the Game for his two field goals from 45 and 29 yards out. If Ruiz stays healthy, place kicking should not be a worry for the Panthers.
Entering his first season as the primary punter and holder for field goals, Michael Hayes put together a solid 2020 campaign. Hayes did a good job of putting the ball within the 20 yard-line, pinning teams in their own red zone nine times across 50 punts. Hayes helped the Panthers flip the field on several occasions, averaging 40 yards per punt for the season. That sort of weapon goes a long way in helping defenses. During the South Alabama game in 2020, Hayes took over the place kicking, kickoff and punting duties for the injured Ruiz. Ideally, he does not need to do that again, but should his number be called again he would be ready.
Next up: Tight Ends