Few facets of Maryland’s roster pose as many questions entering spring football as special teams.
Sure, Tony Logan is back at punt returner, and there’s always a chance he could take over for Torrey Smith on kickoff returns.
As for kicker and punter? Those duties were handled a year ago by senior Travis Baltz.
Baltz, of course, is gone. That always figured to be an issue from a punting standpoint, and Maryland has both a walk-on (Michael Tart) and a freshman who will arrive on campus in the preseason (Nathan Renfro).
Kicker is another matter. Nick Ferrara played well as a true freshman in 2009, delivering a game-winning kick against James Madison as one of that season’s few legitimate highlights. But he was injured in the 2010 preseason and never emerged as an effective enough option to be used beyond kickoffs.
With Baltz gone, Ferrara would seem well-positioned to regain his old gig.
Nonetheless, new coach Randy Edsall hinted things might not be going too well among his specialists.
“That is a concern, but that’s why you practice,” Edsall said. “I hope that all of our specialists are out there practicing for us. That’s something we have to work on. Again, the biggest thing with spring for the guys who are here, they’re going to determine whether or not freshmen have the opportunity to come in and contribute based on what they do in the spring. So the guys who are here right now, they have to go and make their mark this spring. They’ll still have opportunities, but those opportunities might not be as strong for them if they don’t perform the way they would like to perform as we evaluate it at the end of the spring.”
There’s a fair bit of reading between the lines to be done there for those predisposed to do so, notably the ominous mention of hoping “all our specialists are out there practicing for us.” Edsall also said on signing day Renfro could handle kicking duties in addition to working as a punter, so there’s a possibility of a freshman coming in to make an impact in the fall if things go poorly in March and April.
Edsall said Friday he did not plan to have a lot of live special teams during the spring, though he does intend to work on punt coverage and punt protection in the next five weeks.
As for kicking?
“I want to do a lot with PAT and field goal, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to do what I have prescribed,” Edsall said. “But if we don’t, we don’t. We’ll adjust.”