Maryland Football Season Review: Special Teams

via terptalk.com

Saving the best for last. It's a bit ironic that the area Maryland was best at - special teams - is also one of the least important spots on the field for a team that's already bad, but I suppose they had to be good as something.

Actually, Maryland has a record of producing great special teams. Brooks Barnard, Adam Podlesh, Nick Novak, Steve Suter...all have been key parts to good teams, and among the best in the country at what they do. This year wasn't much different.

Nick Ferrara, K/P

I'm not joking when I say that Ferrara is a legitimate contender for team MVP. He was an admirable 18-25 for 72% on FGs, and even nailed a 50-yarder. He had two blocked, but they can work on his kick height. For a freshman, the kicking job was plenty good enough for me. Oh, and that's not even mentioning the fact that he was also the punter for the majority of the year. His average there wasn't quite as good as the full-time punter at 39.8, but he had a knack for avoiding touchbacks (just one on the year) and had 6 land inside 20 yards, along with six 50+ yard punts.

When you consider he was handling both kicking and punting duties, Ferrara's performance was pretty great. Kudos to him there. I'm expecting a solid sophomore campaign as he grows calmer, learns to get his kicks higher, and isn't doing absolutely everything.

Travis Baltz, P

The season for Travis just never got off the ground. He was expected to be one of the best punters in the ACC, not to mention the country, but injuries quickly derailed that, and he ended up sitting on the sideline for most of the year. While his stats were okay when he was kicking (40.7 yards per punt), they too were hampered by his injuries.

Even before he was hurt, though, he wasn't looking quite as good as I had expected him to look. Regardless, he has the track record, and if he can stay healthy next year there's no reason to expect he won't be one of the best in the ACC.

Torrey Smith, KR

Maryland's kingpin, Torrey Smith was not only the best player on the team, but one of the most dangerous players in the NCAA. He ended up 6th in the country in all-purpose yardage despite being all but ignored for several games on offense, and registered the second highest yards per play average out of the top 19 in the APY category. He was a threat to house it every time he touched the ball, no matter where on the field, and teams recognized that and started to kick away from him.

I will say that he's not quite as good as you'd think with those stats, because he returned more kicks than basically anyone else in the entire country, but that simply means he was top 30 in KRs, not top 10. He was still dangerous and did what I like to see KR do - take the ball, find a seam, and run.

In the future, I'd like to see him paired with Caleb Porzel to force opponents' hands when kicking to them - either kick it to Torrey, the equally dangerous Porzel, or out of bounds.

Tony Logan, PR

Logan made his living as a punt returner off one play - the return against Clemson. Other than that single return, he was pretty average and rather Oquendo-esque; that is, fair catch or gain about five yards. I'd love to see someone more dangerous out there, like Porzel. Part of me thinks his move to fair catch or "safer" returns was something that came at the coaches' request, considering one of his first returns went 40+ yards.

It'll be interesting to see if holds the spot next year. Kenny Tate and Porzel will fight for that spot hard.

The Future

All of the key pieces of the special teams return, so next year is looking good. Ferrara will improve over the off-season, and Baltz will get healthy and return to his old form. Logan will either improve or someone more dangerous will take over, and Smith will be back and dangerous as ever.

Now, if there was just a team to surround them.

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