There’s less than a fortnight until the unofficial start of college football coverage – the ACC Kickoff, a three-day event during which two players and the head coach from each school converge on a posh resort to talk about how they’ll go undefeated this season.
Or something like that.
That leaves 10 weekdays to go over 10 position groups (quarterback, running back, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, secondary, returners, kickers/punter) on Maryland’s football team. How convenient.
So like a Flintstones vitamin, this will make a good once-a-day exercise. (Really, who would have ever thought someone would ever be able to buy a nutritional supplement in the shape of the Great Gazoo?)
So it’s time to start with one of the program’s more settled areas. Barring a complete meltdown – or a rerun of the spring game – senior Obi Egekeze will kick field goals and extra points. Egekeze quietly rolled up a nice 2007, making all 36 of his PATs and converting 17 of 23 field goal attempts.
Breaking this down further, Egekeze was 8-for-8 from 30 yards and in. He was also 13-for-14 in ACC games, missing only a 46-yarder at Florida State. He also made a 46-yard attempt against the Seminoles, the longest of his career.
Put simply, he was fairly consistent and in general didn’t mess up anything when a failure would have been a crushing blow. He struggled in the wind at Rutgers and the rain at the Emerald Bowl, but otherwise made everything inside 40 yards all season. The Terps would happily take a repeat of that.
(And Egekeze will be happy to never kick in a spring game again. His career record on field goals in the annual glorified scrimmage: 4-for-10).
The logical choice at punter will be sophomore Travis Baltz, who is line to eventually become the program’s third straight four-year starter at the position. He followed Brooks Barnard and Adam Podlesh, who averaged 42.1 yards and 42.3 yards, respectively, in their freshman seasons.
Baltz checked in at 40.9 yards, the program’s lowest for a punting leader since 1998.
But there’s a catch here. Baltz did it as a true freshman. Barnard spent a semester attending Oklahoma before transferring to Maryland. Podlesh redshirted a season before starting his career.
There’s reason to think Baltz will be a bit better this year. He did average 43.1 yards in conference games, and his net average of 34.8 yards wasn’t too far off the 35.9-yard average of Podlesh’s final season.
Could Baltz have pinned opponents inside the 20 more than 23.5 percent of the time (16-for-68)? Maybe, but an offense that struggled more and more as the season progressed (and thus had Baltz more frequently punting from his 20 than near midfield) had something to do with that as well. Baltz could be one of the beneficiaries of an offense that should produce fewer three-and-outs, even if he doesn’t get much better.
Probably the only serious question entering camp will be who takes care of kickoffs. Chris Roberts is gone, so it might come down to whether coach Ralph Friedgen wants Egekeze to have extra duties or not. Two names to watch: Senior David May, who took three of the six spring game kickoffs; and Brett Weiss, who also plays for Maryland’s lacrosse team.
Coming tomorrow: The kick and punt returners.