“We created a culture through our special teams of what it takes to be successful,” Fedora said. “And it’s very, very important to us.”
In 2015, senior placekicker Nick Weiler converted all 67 of his extra points and 20 of 23 field goals — good enough to put him on the 2016 preseason Lou Groza Award Watch List.
Over the summer, Weiler tried to hone his accuracy by picking up a new hobby.
“I read an article last year about (NFL kicker) Adam Vinatieri, and apparently that narrow focus he gets when he’s shooting during archery really helps him since it’s similar to kicking,” Weiler said. “So I picked up a bow and just started doing target practice in the backyard.”
While Weiler has stabilized the kicking game, the punting game remains a mystery. None of the three punters that UNC used a season ago emerged as the go-to guy. The punting inconsistencies led Fedora to put a call in to Prokick Australia to see if he could find a punter from down under.
Now, 27-year-old first-year Australian Tom Sheldon is battling with senior Joey Mangili for the starting punting job.
“It was just a few phone calls and hoping that when he got here I wasn’t going to get catfished,” Fedora said. “It was basically over the Internet and over the telephone. I never saw Tom in person, so I was hoping when he got here that he really was a real person that could punt the ball.”
The challenge for Sheldon will be adjusting to the rules of American football after thriving in Australian rules football.
“It’s a teaching thing for him, as far as understanding the different situations that come up in the punt game, so just getting him to familiarize himself with it is fine,” Fedora said.
“(Sheldon) and Joey are competing like crazy right now and it’s pretty close.”
When it comes to kick returns, Fedora’s mind is made up.
Star punt returner Ryan Switzer has expressed interest in giving kick returning a shot. But Fedora said he likes having T.J. Logan fill that slot. Logan, a senior, has returned kicks since his first year at UNC. Logan has averaged 25.1 yards per return in his career, and he’s scored three career touchdowns off kick returns.
Switzer will set his sights on the NCAA career punt-touchdown record instead.
With seven career punt-return touchdowns, Switzer is one punt-return touchdown away from tying Wes Welker and Antonio Perkins’ record.
“I would lie to you if I said I didn’t want it,” Switzer said at the ACC Football Kickoff. “At the end of the day it would be really nice to go down in the record books as the best punt-returner that played college football.”