On our Maryland football positional preview for the upcoming 2021 season, we are now reviewing the team’s specialists entering the new year.
Special teams can make or break games, and Terps fans know this best from Minnesota’s game-clinching overtime extra point miss to gift Maryland a thrilling 45-44 win in College Park in the 2020 season.
The Terps will likely start familiar faces at the kicker and punter positions and special teams will be an important aspect of the program in 2021.
Let’s take a look at Maryland’s specialists with the opening game of the regular season nearly two weeks away.
Maryland’s 2021 kicker, punter and long snapper depth
|Averaged 42.1 yards per punt
|Averaged 39.3 yards per punt
|Four game while at Texas Tech
Joseph Petrino is set as Maryland’s top kicker heading into the season
Senior kicker Joseph Petrino, who started all five games last season as a junior for head coach Mike Locksley’s Maryland program, is in line once again to lead the team’s kicking crew come 2021.
Petrino had himself an above-par season one year ago, going 14-for-14 on his extra point attempts and converting four of seven field goal attempts. Even though those percentages seem low, keep in mind that three of those seven total attempts were from 50+ yards, where Petrino went 1-for-3. The Richmond Hill, GA native knocked in a long field goal of 51 yards for his season-high against Minnesota.
Petrino went 3-for-4 from inside 40 yards and his other successful field goal distances in 2020 included 33, 37, and 38 yarders. Petrino has been fairly reliable ever since as he became Maryland’s primary kicker in 2018 when he was just a freshman. After hitting a strong 12-of-14 field goal attempts in his first season, his efficiency dipped slightly, as he went 2-for-5 on field goal attempts in 2019.
Petrino’s usage has dipped in his last two seasons as a placekicker, but he’s also the kickoff guy on the squad as well. The rising senior handled 22 of Maryland’s 23 kickoffs, averaging just over 53 yards on each attempt.
If there’s any unforeseen competition at the kicker position, it’ll be from redshirt freshman Harrison Beattie. Beattie is a former five-star kicking prospect, according to Kohl’s Professional Camps. But for now, even though Beattie seems like the kicker of Maryland’s future, it is Petrino’s starting job to lose ahead of the 2021 season.
The Terps will likely use a two-headed monster at the punter position
Maryland has two junior punters on the roster that should see the majority of the punt attempts this season. Anthony Pecorella and Colton Spangler are the two names to look out for when Maryland is in punting formation.
Pecorella appears to be the lead punter on the team after making four starts in five games as a sophomore in 2020. He averaged a career-high 42.1 yards per punt last season, which is 0.8 yards higher than his 41.3 yards per game average that he achieved in 2019. Pecorella attempted 15 punts in 2020 and landed eight of those tries within the 20-yard line.
With his punting distance trending in the right direction, it’s understandable as to why he gets the initial nod over Spangler. Spangler attempted 13 punts over five games played last year and had an average of 39.3 yards per kick. Compared to Pecorella’s increase in yardage, Spangler’s average punt distance actually decreased from the 39.7 yards per punt mark he reached back in 2019.
Despite falling in the lower half of the Big Ten in average yards per punt, Maryland is lucky enough to have a pair of reliable punters, with at least one of the two specialists improving statistically from year to year.
Expect Pecorella and Spangler to reach somewhat of a 60-40 split of the punts, even though Pecorella should handle the punt attempts when Maryland is pinned in its own end because of his better leg.
Who are the new specialists on the Terps’ roster?
Maryland’s top specialists are set in stone for the most part with Petrino, Pecorella and Spangler taking the lead roles on the special teams unit.
The most notable freshman happens to be the redshirt Beattie, who is coming to the Terps as the 22nd overall ranked kicker in his class, per Kohl’s Professional Camps. Petrino’s starting kicker job is surely safe, but Beattie is a five-star and he has a very strong leg. In high school, Beattie had a career-long of 57 yards, so he has the strength to be a starting kicker in the near future.
Freshmen Jack Howes and Brenden Segovia round out Maryland’s newest additions to the program. Howes is listed as a dual kicker and punter and had a 43-yard net punt average at Edgewater High School in Orlando, Florida. Segovia had an even better average distance per punt, as he averaged 46 yards per punt in high school.
The long snappers are some other new specialists on the Terps roster. Out of the four listed, only one was with Maryland during the 2020 season, sophomore Sebastian Alonso. However, Alonso did not appear in game action during the abbreviated season. The Terps also welcomed redshirt freshman Jake Foggia, true freshman Ethan Gough and graduate transfer John Berard. Foggia who was originally a five-star recruit was with the Oregon Ducks last season while Berard played for Texas Tech.
Berard was a backup deep snapper in 2019 however, during the 2020 season, the Annapolis, Maryland native saw action on four games and was the team’s primary long snapper in two matchups.