Tony Logan was warned by his longtime friend, current New York Jet Kyle Wilson. As soon as he started busting long punt returns, opponents would adjust by avoiding the Maryland wide receiver altogether.
Logan returned punts for touchdowns in consecutive games – the Terrapins’ first punt returns for scores since New Year’s Day 2004. He had 415 return yards by the season’s fifth game, and was just shy of Steve Suter’s school-record pace from 2002 when he had a 52-yard outing against Miami.
But that was it, and Logan actually lost a couple yards over Maryland’s last four games as opponents learned rugby kicks and sending the ball out of bounds was a better alternative than letting the Piscataway, N.J., native dissect them.
“It was frustrating, because it was my main source of getting in the game last year,” Logan said. “But I feel like it’s a respect thing, too. I can’t be too mad. It helps us with field position, either way.”
The respect could continue into this season, which is why Logan is hoping he’ll have a bigger role in his final season. He said he worked some on kickoff returns, but it’s in the receiving game where he’d like to make a large impact.
Maryland’s top two receivers are gone. So even though Logan played sparingly at his listed position – his 7-yard reception against East Carolina in the Military Bowl was his first career catch – the opportunity for playing time is available.
“That’s something I’ve been working hard on all summer and putting the best work in I can,” Logan said. “That’s what I’m trying to focus on now, especially with the time I have.”
In the first week of preseason camp, he made an impression on new coach Randy Edsall.
“I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen out of Tony Logan,” Edsall said. “I think he has a mindset and he has a focus that he wants to contribute more than just as a punt returner. I see a guy that’s improved. I see a guy who wants to be consistent each and every day. … He’s a guy, it’s almost like he’s on a mission.”
That’s not surprising for a guy who was accustomed to having the ball in his hands before arriving in College Park.
Logan was a high school quarterback, and at some stages of his college career was considered an emergency quarterback. Those opportunities didn’t come (though he did take a few snaps from center last year as Maryland dabbled with a Wildcat formation).
Last season was Logan’s second as Maryland’s primary punt returner, but his first when he was able to break free on a semi-consistent basis. Still, he has greater hopes for 2011; the final words of his Twitter bio – “Best Punt Returner in the Nation” – make it clear he plans to do better than finishing third in the country in average return, as he did last year.
“That’s the goal,” Logan said. “After last season’s success, I had to put that behind me. With the new special teams we have now, I feel pretty comfortable and confident with some of the schemes coach [Lyndon] Johnson has for us.”
Toss everything together – be it a consistent chance to play wideout or the hope teams might choose to punt to him again – and Logan has plenty of reason to look ahead to the Terps’ Sept. 5 opener.
“I’m pretty eager,” Logan said. “Last year, Miami punted to me. That was the last game I felt I got the ball consistently. We’re going against them first this year, so I’m hoping they will kick it to me and I can do some things. Either way, you just have to always be prepared.”