The Maryland football team had a year to forget in terms of its punting situation during the 2015 season.
As a team, the Terrapins only averaged 37.2 yards-per-punt. To put that into perspective, Nebraska led the Big Ten with 43.6 yards-per-punt and had a similar amount of punts to that of Maryland (Nebraska had 61 and Maryland had 70).
Following the 2014 season, three-year starter Nathan Renfro decided to transfer to Tennessee and spend his graduate year with the Volunteers. During his time in College Park, Renfro averaged 40.7 yards-per-punt and was a model of consistency at the position.
If Renfro would’ve stuck around, his 40.7 punting average would’ve put Maryland within the top seven punting teams in the Big Ten.
With Renfro leaving the program, freshman Nicolas Pritchard became the team’s starting punter. He kicked in all 12 games, but was inconsistent at times.
Let’s take a look at each punter who will be battling for the starting job this summer.
Pritchard enters the 2016 season in a similar fashion to a season ago. The New Jersey native was fighting for the starting job in 2015 and ended up winning the competition.
Pritchard ended up booting the ball 55 times for a grand total of 2,099 yards. He averaged 38.2 yards-per-punt and struggled to consistently aid Maryland in the field position game. Over the course of the season, Pritchard did have some stellar moments as Maryland’s punter.
His best game came against Iowa when he sent six punts into the air for 270 yards. The New Egypt (NJ) native averaged 45.0 yards-per-punt that afternoon, which was his best showing of the season. Pritchard also performed well against Ohio State when he punted six times for 265 yards, which was good for a 44.2 average.
Pritchard’s main competition for the job is likely to be Australian freshman Wade Lees.
Lees is the most intriguing punting prospect that the Terps have in the fold entering 2016. He is a 27-year old former Australian Rules Football player that was suspended back in 2012 for a taking a banned steroid. Lees served an 18-month suspension before attempting to return to the sport, but didn’t have much success. He is a former teammate of Ohio State punter Cameron Johnston.
Considering the amount of struggles that Maryland had at the position a season ago, Lees could definitely win the starting job if he performs at a high level in training camp. The Terps do have an easy schedule to start off the season, so the team can afford to use multiple punters if they are still trying to figure out who the starter will be.
Lee Schrader certainly didn’t get the amount of work that Pritchard did during the 2015 campaign. After redshirting the 2014 season, Schrader appeared in just one game last season.
Pritchard had an awful start to Maryland’s contest with Michigan State. He sent his first two punts for just 43 yards (21.5 yards-per-punt), including an 11-yard punt that left him incredibly frustrated.
Following that, Schrader got his opportunity to help the Terps in the field position battle.
The Newport News (Va.) native punted five times for 166 yards (33.2 yards-per-punt) in Maryland’s 24-7 loss at the hands of Michigan State. His best punt came early in the fourth quarter when he sent a booming 48-yard punt to the Spartan 27-yard line. It certainly wasn’t an inspiring performance for a player that was trying to stake his claim to the starting job.