Special Teams a Concern for Maryland

Terps look to improve kickoff returns, placekicking.

Who would have thought that last season’s do-it-all kick returner would become the team’s glaring weakness?

Torrey Smith is coming off a record-breaking 2009 campaign in which he set the record for most Atlantic Coast Conference kickoff return yardage and the Maryland single-season for all-purpose yardage. He’s returning kickoffs for an average of 18.6 yards this season, seven yards less than last year, due to an ankle injury sustained against Florida International.

Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen admitted leaning towards making a switch in returners, suggesting defensive backs Avery Graham, Trenton Hughes, Dexter McDougle, as well as running back Da’Rel Scott and punt returner extraordinaire Tony Logan as possible replacements.

Friedgen acknowledged, however, that using a defensive player presented more of a risk in terms of ball security.

“As hard we work on ball control or ball security, we don’t work on it as hard with our defensive players,” who focus on quite the contrary instead.

Logan has been the Terps’ primary punt returner in 2010, averaging the second most yards per return in the nation (24.6), including two 80-plus-yard touchdowns that proved to be game-changing plays in both of the team’s wins.

As a redshirt freshman, Scott set a then-Maryland freshman record for kickoff return yardage with 566, but has faded from that role since becoming the team’s featured running back.

Regardless, the kickoff return unit desperately needs a boost, as it sports the 11th best ranking in the Atlantic Coast Conference, a mere 15 yards from the worst, Florida State.

Friedgen said he’ll decide at game time whether to use Smith or opt to go in another direction. A lot depends on Smith’s health, which has improved during the week after limiting his reps Monday and Tuesday.

“Torrey looked pretty good today. He looked about full speed,” Friedgen said. “That was the best he’s looked in a long while.”

Kicking Battle

A 33-yard missed field goal by acting-placekicker Travis Baltz was just the second miss on the season. Although solid in his efforts, Friedgen reiterated his desire for last year’s Freshman All-American to return to the lineup.

“I’d like for [Nick] Ferrara to win that job,” Friedgen said. “He just hasn’t come out and done it yet,” adding that having his kicks blocked continues to plague the kicker.

Baltz continues to have a grasp on the starting role, calling the competition “not even really close right now.” Friedgen has yet to rule out Ferrara’s return. He prefers a healthy, productive combination, which he believes would benefit both in their specific responsibilities.

“When Ferrara is doing what he is capable, Baltz can focus on punting,” Friedgen said, which can further improve an already impressive season the punter has put together.

News and Notes

* RB Gary Douglas, TE Dave Stinebaugh, CB Avery Graham and DB Desmond Kearse have been ruled out of Saturday’s game versus Boston College.

* The Eagles hold a 5-2 all-time advantage in the series, and have won four of five games since entering the ACC.

* The Terrapins have just one in the state of Massachusetts, and are winless in Alumni Stadium.

* Captains: LB Alex Wujciak, OL Andrew Gonnella and PR Tony Logan

* Maryland flag bearer: Devonte Campbell; American flag bearer: Antwine Perez

* Scout Players of the Week: DB Kevin Brown; WR Alex Fletcher

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