So much of football is offense and defense, but special teams is the ultimate wild card. A program can’t rise to prominence behind its specialists alone, but a field goal here and a big return there can be the difference between the good teams and the great ones.
Maryland has been a mixed bag on special teams in recent years. The Terps previously had stars like Brad Craddock and Will Likely in this area, but with both gone by the middle of last season, it wasn’t the greatest time. In 2016, Maryland ranked 102nd in the nation in Special Teams S&P+, with most individual variables ranging from average to slightly below.
For better or worse, most of the core of that group is returning for another round.
Maryland’s kickers & punters
|Adam Greene||R-SR||9-14 FG (37 long), 37-38 XPl took 24 kickoffs|
|Mike Shinsky||SO||1-1 FG (41 yds); took 2 kickoffs|
|Danny Sutton||SR||No FG attempts; took 37 kickoffs|
|Wade Lees||SO||All 72 punts, 39.8 avg, 20 i-20, 1 touchback|
That’s a notably small group for a college team, but it means everyone should be able to carve out a role. Greene and Shinsky seemed like a wash at the end of 2016. Lees has essentially no competition at punter right now; Sutton is listed as both a kicker and punter on the roster, but only saw action on kickoffs last fall.
Maryland brings back two long snappers, senior Nate Adams and junior Matt Oliveira, who were the Terps’ primary starters in 2015 and 2016, respectively. That battle will most likely be decided at the end of fall camp, and it might go back and forth to some extent.
The return game is probably the biggest question mark. Likely is gone, as is Teldrick Morgan; they took all but two of Maryland’s punt returns last fall, with Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison recording one each. Wide receiver D.J. Moore was the Terps’ most-used kick returner in 2016, and he should see some action on punts as well. Maryland also had DJ Turner, Taivon Jacobs and a few others practice with the return men in the spring, and we’ll be monitoring that spot when we cover practice this week.
In other news
I wrote about Cole Field House and Maryland football, a partnership that should help usher in a new era.
We would have spent most of Friday promoting this, but a pair of blue-chip 2019 basketball recruits upstaged everything.
Scott Van Pelt was in Cole this weekend.
Maryland soccer is No. 6 in the country to start the season.
Former Terps pitcher Jake Stinnett was promoted to AA by the Cubs this weekend.