Next up in our Spring Game Preview are the Special Teams. This will include, FG’s, Punting, Punt Returns, and Kickoff Returns. When you look at the Special Teams there is a strange mix of great experience and very little. I guess we can call it feast or famine. Because I’m hungry, let’s start off with a feast.
Nowhere on special teams are we in better shape than Punt Returner. Tony Logan returns to that role as a Senior and looks to put up similar numbers in 2011. Last year he returned 31 punts for 560 yards and averaged 18.1 yards a return. Tony also scored two TD’s via punt return and had a long of 85 yards. I’m perfectly fine with those numbers.
For all the experience we have catching the punts, the man who is going to be kicking them….well not as much. Last year saw Travis Baltz handle the punting duties. He kicked every one of Maryland’s 67 punts (interesting fact, last year we punted 67 times while our opponents punted 68 times). Travis averaged 41.7 yards with a long of 62. He punted inside the 20 23 times and punted a kick greater than 50 yards 12 times. (Interesting fact #2, last year we blocked 4 punts, and while our opponents blocked zero).
Who is going to replace him this spring? We’ll I’m not sure. On the roster is JR Nick Ferrera who seems like a possible choice, but currently he is listed only as a PK. Also on the roster this spring is Michael Tart. Michael is a Freshman from Charlotte, NC and though he may or may not see much action this fall, he could very well get some playing time this spring.
Kick Off duty will fall back to Nick Ferrera who kicked off 66 times last year he averaged 60.7 yards with 5 touch backs and 2 dreaded out of bounds kicks. I think we can sharpie him in for the role in 2011.
As for Field Goals, the logical choice again would be Ferrera, after all it was his spot before he got injured. He would be replacing Baltz who handled those duties last year. Baltz went 14-18 as the kicker making 6-7 from under 29 yards, and 5-7 when between 30-40 yards. Baltz also nailed 2-3 from 40-49 yards out, and was a perfect 1 for 1 when kicking over 50 yards. His long was 52. The biggest compliment you can give a kicker (Other than he reminds me of Nick “Das Boot” Novak) is to say to yourself “Hmmm, I don’t ever remember cussing Travis Baltz last year”. Considering I just had that moment, it will mean that Nick has some big shoes to fill.
And this brings us to Kick Returns. Last year this role was held by Torrey Smith. He was so good at it, that 10 other players also had kick returns. Now unless Friedgen intentionally put TE Matt Furstenburg or LB Dexter McDougle deep, that means teams weren’t kicking to Smith all that much. And with good reason as Smith averaged 20 yards a return. As for who will take over the role, I’m thinking Tony Logan could again be that guy. After all he had 2 returns last year and those averaged to be 23 yards.
So that is where we sit with Special Teams. Because there are so many question marks, the Spring Game is going to be very telling with how our Special Teams unit looks come September. In fact of all the previews we are doing, I could see this one being the one I go back to after the season starts, and be totally embarrassed by how I thought the situation would play out. But as we sit 8 days away from the Spring Game, it’s my best guess.
Next up for TD.com, our special NFL Mock Draft. Just kidding. If I see one more mock draft I’m going to vomit on my keyboard. Not counting filling out NCAA Brackets (which you usually do to win something), is there a greater exercise in futility than writing up a mock draft?