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Season Preview - Special Teams

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Yes, we’re already to part three of the preview – time flies when you’re having fun, right? Check out the offensive and defensive previews when you get a chance – like when you’re at work tomorrow. No better way to waste the day.

Maryland lost their great special teams coach Ray Rychleski to South Carolina this year, which is in itself very bad news. Rychleski was responsible for the great lineage of punters, from Brooks Barnard all the way to last year’s freshman standout Travis Baltz. Also, during Rychelski’s entire duration at UMD, the Terps never had a punt blocked, which is the longest current streak.

The replacement is Danny Pearman, who oversaw Duke’s special teams last year. Pearman is relatively inexperienced, so how he’ll run things is currently unknown. He does have a decent amount to work with, though. Here’s a quick look at who’s expected to start.

K – Obi Egekeze / Brett Weiss

P – Travis Baltz / Ted Townsley

PR – Danny Oquendo / Anthony Wiseman

KR – Da’Rel Scott / Anthony Wiseman / Nolan Carroll / Danny Oquendo

LS – Andrew Schmitt

Obi Egekeze returns to placekick for his senior year. He’s had his ups and downs, but appeared to find his stride last year. He’s got a big leg, but accuracy – particularly farther out – is really hit and miss. His leg strength makes nearly any kick possibly, though. He’s also a good tool on kickoffs. Travis Baltz

Baltz returns with experience to punt. He punted last year as a true freshman, and did admirably. He was named to both the All-ACC and All-American teams.  He, like Egekeze, has his moments, but, unlike Egekeze, they’re more good than bad. He should improve upon his average of 40.9 yards per punt, which was good enough for sixth in the ACC.

The return game isn’t as solid. Oquendo is a consistent and experienced punt returner – no problems there. But the kick returns are really a crapshoot right now. Da’Rel Scott, last year’s returner, appears to be heading for the starting RB job. Adding kick return duties is a big gamble. Injuries come easy in football, and extra assignments don’t help. If Pearman/Fridge decide to sit him, it’ll be a pretty open competition behind Anthony Wiseman for the other spot. Nolan Carroll and Oquendo would compete, but those are just players I thought would fit well – it’s completely speculation.

As long as UMD can find someone to return kicks, special teams won’t be a problem. In fact, the Terps should have one of the better units in the conference. All the players are experienced and possess a good amount of raw talent. The success of the unit may hinge on how Pearman utilizes and trains them, more than anything else.