Australian punter Wade Lees, who pledged verbally to Maryland in December, officially joined the program with a National Signing Day announcement on Wednesday.
This is an exciting and necessary move, but there's a lot to unpack first. Lees has a fascinating backstory: He took an 18-month suspension from the Australian Football League for purchasing (but not taking) a banned performance-enhancer in 2012. After his suspension, he joined a skills academy called ProKick Australia, which describes its mission thusly:
The Prokick Australia Academy has been designed to train and assess young Australians in the art of kicking and punting. At the end of the course they will be fully prepared physically and mentally for a college scholarship offer or an NFL trial. We exclusively train and assess our players within the Prokick Australia team.
Lees literally went off to punting school, like it was boot camp or something. What appears to have emerged is an outstanding punting prospect.
Check out this video of Lees punting the bejesus out of a ball – our unofficial estimate is that this ball travels 65 yards in the air.
2016 class @WL_88 pic.twitter.com/2fyNC7DfVb— Nathan Chapman (@ProkickAus) December 10, 2015
Maryland's punters were a putrid 125th out of 128 FBS teams in punting average last year, at 37 yards per boot. Part of that was Randy Edsall's obsessive fetishization of short-field punts, but part of it was just Maryland's punters not being good enough. Lees is the immediate favorite to start at punter for Maryland for 2016 and however long he's eligible (which seems uncertain because he's entering at 27), and he could be very good.
Lees is, of course, not Maryland's first rodeo Down Under. The Terps added former Aussie punter Brad Craddock in their 2012 class, and he became a Lou Groza Award winner as a kicker.