Spring Football Previews: Special Teams

This final spring preview breaks down Maryland's special teams unit.

Try as they may, Maryland's cast of freshman and walk-on punters had a roller-coaster year of shanks, blocks, and drops en route to a season in which Maryland averaged just 37.3 yards per boot in 2015.

But help is on the way from "Down Under" yet again.

Former Terps Aussie place kicker (and sometimes punter) Brad Craddock has moved on after he, too, had a bumpy 2015 campaign. But this year's offering from Australia (Melbourne this time) is 28-yard old freshman punter Wade Lees, who arrived in January and is competing in spring ball for the top job.

The media has only seen one practice so far, but what we saw Tuesday was promising as Lees, a 6-2, 204-pound lefty, was not only booming his boots with height and distance, but turning them over consistently as well. Granted, it wasn't "live," but he looked more polished than expected for the former pro rugby player playing his first year of American football. Lees will have four years of eligibility at Maryland.

Lees will bring immediate impact to the position, which last year featured not only nine punts from Craddock, but freshman Nicolas Pritchard (38.2 average) and freshman walk-on Lee Shrader (33.2 average), all on a group that never was consistent, and really fell of late-season.

The Terps also return sophomore Nicholas Rubinowicz, while last year the Terps added Towson transfer punter/kicker Daniel Sutton, a junior out of New Hope, Pa.

While punting should be more stable, and deep, the Terps have someone very capable of filling Craddock's big shoes at place- kicker as well. 

Junior Adam Greene, the top student on the team, has long had the strongest leg, and leg-whip, on campus, too. Now it's a matter of stepping up his accuracy as everyone expects as the starter in 2016. As a sophomore last season when Craddock was injured, Greene connected on three of five field goals with a long of 44 yards. He also had 19 kickoffs, and is continuing to work on his height on those. Craddock, incidentally, fell off from his Lou Groza Award winning season as a junior, not only due to injury but the Terps' inconsistent offense, which only helped set up 10 field goal attempts. His long was also 44 yards.

Saving best for last on special teams, the Terps return senior All American kick/punt return ace Will Likely, who is sitting out this spring after winter surgery. Likely, who toyed with entering the NFL Draft early this spring, not only led the team in all-purpose yards in 2015 (118.8 per game), he rated nationally in kick returns (22.5 yards per return, with a 100-yard score) and punt returns (17.7 yards per return, two scores including an 85-yarder). Others that return to aid Likely include speedy freshman Ty Johnson (25.0 yard average on kick returns in '15) and Taivon Jacobs (19.0 yard average). The Terps enjoyed a team average of 17.3 yards per punt return to opponent's 7.4 in 2015. Levern Jacobs and DeAndre Lane could also get looks. Likely remains the Terps' top home-run threat, and could gets reps on offense again as well, at slot in Walt Bell's new system at College Park. 

As for long snapping, the Terps return junior Nate Adams, as well as preferred walk-on Matt Oliveira out of Saint Peter's Prep in New Jersey.  

The other big chore this spring will be re-tooling the kick cover and return teams, where Maryland will have to break in a new batch of contributors after some key graduations losses.  


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