Renfro Working Out the Kinks

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland punter Nate Renfro is working on a few mechanical issues in order to have a more consistent 2014.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Kickers are a unique breed, and they tend to stick together and know the stats and minutiae from stars of yesteryear and beyond.

And for punters, well, despite playing decades before Nate Renfro was even born, the name Ray Guy is a familiar one to the Maryland junior punter.

Renfro, like countless high school, college and professional punters, may have a sense of vindication when one of their own finally gets enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Which happened this summer when Guy, the former Oakland Raider, will become the first after a long wait.

"All of us will be watching him on TV," said Renfro, who as a youngster attended Guy's kicking camp. "It's about time one of us gets in. He's the best ever and I'm glad for him and all of the other punters that still have a chance."

But before he can revel much in that celebration, Renfro, a student of the game who began his Terps career two years ago with a blast, has to take care of some consistency and mechanical issues that have dogged him of late.

As a sophomore, Renfro had a 40.8-yard average with 10 punts of 50-plus yards, including a 64-yarder against West Virginia. Renfro managed to drop 18 punts inside the 20. But it was some untimely shanks that didn't get the Terps offense out of a hole that factored into his annual performance evaluation.

And he has not solved the consistency problem yet, both he and Randy Edsall agreed this week.

"I don't think Nate's had a good spring. I think he's struggling," said Edsall. "I think Nate's biggest issue is he thinks too much instead of just going out there and being smooth and fluid. That's something that he'll have to work on and he has some work to do over the summer."

Renfro spent most of the winter trying to eliminate his errors. He watched film, but mostly focused on keeping his head down on the ball at the point of contact.

"This spring hasn't really gone how I'd liked it to. I'm still inconsistent. I've watched my film and I've listened to everybody, but right now it's kind of too late to fix my problem by the end of spring," Renfro said.

The Tennessee native has one more practice and then Friday's spring game to try and finish on a higher note.

"I did punt the ball pretty well today," he said of Monday's practice, which was held in a steady rain. Renfro repeatedly was nailing punts between 40 and 50 yards.

"At least I know what I'm doing wrong and I think I will have a good summer working on my mistakes. I'm kind of excited about just working on my own and trying to fix things for me. Looking up and not staying focused on the ball and not keeping my eye on the ball is the main thing for me. I am kicking better now than I did last week," Renfro said.

Kickers sometimes have their quirks, and Renfro said he is now talking to himself just before the ball is snapped.

"I tell myself to keep my head down and stay down. Most of the time the other players let me know if it was a good punt or not. I have to get used to that kind of rhythm," Renfro said.

Before, Renfro never looked much at old tapes, just his current film from this spring. When he did go back to last season's, he saw that he was keeping his head down too long.

"That is the change that is starting to help," Renfro said.

Heading into the off-season, Renfro's focus was also to keep his steps short and keep the ball over his kicking leg instead of dropping it to the side. He said he had a bad habit of that. Over winter break, Renfro hooked up with former Tennessee Titans punter James Wilhoit, who is now a kicking coach in the area.

"He's still in the middle Tennessee area, and I kind of met up and talked with him a few times. That's nice to have him around when I go home," Renfro said.

Last summer, Renfro worked with another kicking coach, Bill Renner in North Carolina, and he hopes they can get together again this year.

Terps special teams Coach Andre Powell has worked with Renfro here, but has also let him work out his kinks on his own.

"He likes to let us do our own thing because he knows we are working with other coaches at times. He trusts those coaches," said Renfro, who has also worked with former Ravens punter Kyle Richardson in the past.

Kickers stick together, and Terps junior kicker Brad Craddock hopes to top even his breakout campaign of a year ago. Renfro grades him well so far this spring.

"I think Brad has been doing well," said Renfro. "He has been working with [Matt] Stover from time to time whenever he can get up there. The turnaround that he had from his first year to last year and moving forward is fun to watch. I think we're all getting better. [Backup punter Michael] Tart has been pushing me this spring and it's been good competition all around."

Heading into the Big Ten will have its challenges, especially with the bigger stadiums and the elements. Renfro flirted with attending Northwestern before deciding on Maryland during the recruiting process.

"I'm excited to be playing in those stadiums next year," Renfro said. "I have family up in Michigan and look forward to playing in the Big House. I've already been told to get 40 tickets for that game if I can. That will be interesting.

"And one of my best friends is a big Ohio State fan. I'm hoping that he can make it up here to that game and to Columbus next year in the Horseshoe. I've heard that Camp Randall [Wisconsin] is a fun place to play and even Penn State with their 100,000 fans. Yeah, it's bigger crowds but that's OK."

Wind and environmental issues will differ from place to place, Renfro said.

"It all depends on how the stadiums are built and each place is different. Sometimes we get a swirling wind in here and sometimes it's just a straight gust. It's one of those things where you have to be in the stadium and get a good feel during the pre-game," Renfro said.

Renfro may never be in Ray Guy's league [few will], but that doesn't stop him from learning from his Guy's tapes and trying to emulate his style to be better at his craft.

"I'm real excited to see him get into the Hall of Fame. I remember going to one of his camps when I was a kid and wondering I could learn to punt like him," Renfro said.

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