Spring Football Preview IX: Special Teams

Spring football is underway and in our next position preview we look at the Terps' special teams.

Yet another spot of newness this spring for Maryland is special teams, as coach Andre Powell moved on to Pittsburgh last month, while punter Nate Renfro graduated early and long snapper Christian Carpenter is on the shelf this spring due to off-season back surgery. Randy Edsall said several Terps assistants will take on coaching roles with special teams this spring, led by John Dunn, Keenan McCardell and Terry Richardson, as well as himself.

The good news, however, is that junior and Lou Groza Award winner (Maryland’s first-ever) kicker Brad Craddock returns for another season, as does Will Likely, the Terps' dangerous return man/all-Big Ten honoree this season, and the man who took a kickoff 100 yards to pay-dirt against Stanford in the Foster Farms Bowl, one of the rare highlights in the game.

Likely led the team in the regular season with a 28.0 yard average on kick returns, while amassing 218 yards (11.3 yards per return) on punt returns, which ranked third in the Big Ten. He will star again on both return units come the fall, and is always a threat. Likely returned a punt 69 yards for a score versus West Virginia last fall. Versus Michigan State this season, he totaled 228 kickoff return yards, with a long of 52.

Craddock was an All American, too, and all-Big Ten of course, booting 18-of-19 field goals in 2014, including a career-best 57-yarder versus Ohio State. He is Maryland’s all-time leader in field goal percentage (81.7), and this off-season Edsall said Craddock led the team in workouts with his ethic and example. Always striving (though his game is near-flawless), Craddock is trying to get more distance and a little more height on his kickoffs this off-season. Meanwhile, his understudy, sophomore Adam Greene, has drawn raves of late from Edsall, and is the future at the position.

Punter is a much bigger question mark, as the Terps have two rookies vying for the job, freshmen Lee Shrader, who redshirted in the fall and has a big leg but needs more mechanical work, as well as true freshman Nick Pritchard, a walk-on who enrolled this winter. Shrader was in a walking boot at the Foster Farms Bowl with a foot injury, but is healthy for the spring. Both have all the physical tools you look for, while Pritchard wasted little time in week one of camp this month, turning several deep punts over.

The sophomore long snapper Carpenter was dogged by a freakish back injury late last season, and true freshman Nate Adams out of Arizona filled in, which he will do again this spring while Carpenter recovers from surgery.

With both holders moving on (Michael Tart and Renfro), the Terps will be auditioning a few this month in camp led by other specialists like Pritchard. When healthy next fall, Craddock likes Caleb Rowe as his guy. The Terps will also have several other athletes that will get looks on special teams returns, like Taivon Jacobs, Jacquille Veii, DeAndre Lane, Will Ulmer, Sean Davis, Levern Jacobs, and others.

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