Maryland football lost to Boston College in the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26. With the regular season now firmly in the rear view, it’s time to enter postseason analysis mode. We’re doing a position-by-position evaluation of the team. Let’s look at how the Terps’ special teams fared.
|William Likely III||SR||DB||6||8||219||27.38||0||1.3||36.5|
|William Likely III||SR||DB||6||8||26||3.25||0||1.3||4.3|
|Lorenzo Harrison III||FR||RB||9||1||15||15||0||0.1||1.7|
|Special Teams S&P+||-1||102|
|FG Value (per kick)||-0.28||105|
|Punt Success Rate||55.60%||65|
|Kickoff Success Rate||63.50%||94|
|Punt Return Success Rate||40.00%||105|
|Kick Return Success Rate||47.60%||44|
What we thought would happen
In 2015, Maryland was great at returning, very good at kicking and very bad at punting. Will Likely’s return, Wade Lees’ enrollment and Pete Lembo’s hire (Durkin somehow swayed him from an FBS head coaching gig at Ball State) gave hope for an overall improvement in special teams this season, even with reliable kicker Brad Craddock graduating. Here’s Alex:
It’s not reasonable to ask Greene to be 2014 Craddock, but he could be pretty close to 2015 Craddock (8-of-10 on field goals, a 37 percent touchback rate on kickoffs). Lees will be better than Maryland’s punting game last year and quite possibly better than Nathan Renfro in 2014, too. Likely will still be Likely.
You can win games on special teams, and you can lose games on special teams. Last year, Maryland’s games almost all ended with big margins, so that didn’t happen. But the Terps will play several toss-up games in 2016, including conference bouts with Minnesota and Indiana.
Good special teams could be the difference between 5-7 and 6-6, or between 6-6 and 7-5. They can’t be ignored, and with Durkin in charge, they won’t be.
What actually happened
Maryland’s overall special teams product dipped a bit in 2016, largely because of Likely’s season-ending injury in October. The Terps were better at punting than they were at kicking or returning, which would have come as a shock at the beginning of the season.
Wade Lees, the 28-year-old Aussie freshman, was an improvement over last year, when the Terps averaged just 37.2 yards per punt. Lees’ average of 39.8 is far from eye-popping, but those punts were hardly ever returned, and he pinned the opponent inside the 20-yard line 20 times.
Adam Greene wasn’t terrible, but he also wasn’t very good. His season long was just 37 yards (though, in fairness, he only attempted two kicks longer than 40) and he missed more than a third of his kicks overall. Most of his misses were close, and several were from the far hashes, which are tricky, but there’s no denying that Craddock was sorely missed this season.
Greene missed two kicks against Rutgers and was relieved in the fourth quarter by Mike Shinsky, who knocked one home from 41 yards out. The Terps still rolled with Greene in the Quick Lane Bowl; he made his only attempt, a 23-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Kick and punt returns, which were always exciting things when Likely was back deep, were generally non-events this year. Even before his injury, Maryland’s opponents had decided to avoid him for the most part. Likely only returned eight punts for an average of 3.3 yards; his eight kick returns averaged 27.4 yards. Maryland’s execution on a whole wasn’t great, as returners were often not given much room to work with, especially in the beginning of the year.
In his absence, Maryland turned primarily to D.J. Moore for returning kicks and Teldrick Morgan for punts. Morgan provided one highlight, an 83-yard touchdown against Rutgers, but he wasn’t a game-changer for the most part.
What’s going to happen next
Lees, despite being born in the 1980s, still has three years of college eligibility remaining. All signs point to him being Maryland’s punter for the foreseeable future, which is fun. Nicolas Pritchard, the starter as a true freshman, will still be around as a backup.
Greene, Shinsky and kickoff specialist Danny Sutton will all be back in 2017. Freshman Jonathan Doerer will join camp in the fall. Everything known about Durkin suggests he’ll let everyone battle this out.
The return game’s immediate future isn’t clear. Likely and Morgan, who combined for 92 percent of Maryland’s punt returns, will be gone. Moore is coming back and figures to be the primary kick returner, but beyond that, expect the Terps to try a lot of guys out. Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison make sense, as do JC Jackson, Tino Ellis and perhaps a couple of the incoming freshman wideouts and defensive backs.
Maryland’s special teams might not necessarily be a strength in 2017, but it shouldn’t hold the Terps back too much.