Maryland Football: Plenty of experience on the special teams unit

Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images
Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images /

The Maryland football team had a fairly productive special teams unit throughout the 2016 season.

With the entire group returning this season, the Terrapins could have success once again if they’re a tad more consistent.

The 2016 season marked the first one without kicker Brad Craddock, who was one of the more talented players at the position to come through College Park in some time. Adam Greene stepped into that starting role despite not having a ton of experience prior to last season.

One area that Maryland excelled in was the return game.

Despite Will Likely having graduated, there’s still plenty of talent to keep the Terps among the Big Ten’s elite in that department.

We take a closer look at each of Maryland’s part of the special teams unit below.

Adam Greene (kicker)

After Craddock left the program, there was a huge hole to fill at the placekicker position. Greene did start the final three games of the 2015 season when Craddock was injured. He ended up connecting on three of his five field goal attempts, including a 44-yarder against Wisconsin. In 2016, Greene instantly became the starter despite not having a ton of experience. In limited opportunities, the Broadneck (Md.) High School product hit 9-of-14 field goal attempts while connecting on 37-of-38 extra point tries.

Greene’s longest field goal came from 37 yards out against Michigan in Maryland 59-3 loss. He only had two attempts from beyond 40 yards and missed both of them. Greene missed a 51-yard attempt against Central Florida and a 46-yarder against Rutgers in the regular season finale. Obviously, Greene hasn’t had a ton of chances to make many big-time kicks. Two from beyond 40 yards isn’t exactly a huge sample size and he did connect on that 44-yard attempt in 2015. If Maryland’s offense is more efficient in 2017, those opportunities should present themselves and that’s when the Terps will find out what they truly have in Greene.

Daniel Sutton/Mike Shinsky (kicker)

It appears that it will be Greene’s job to lose. However, Shinsky definitely could make some noise in camp. Shinsky didn’t see the field much until the regular season finale when he booted a 41-yard field goal against the Scarlet Knights. Obviously, neither Greene or Shinsky have a big sample size when it comes to kicking field goals from 40-plus yards, but that’s even more reason why Shinsky could impress the coaching staff with a strong performance.

Sutton was Maryland’s primary kickoff specialist last season and that’s something that probably won’t change. He performed well as he recorded seven touchbacks on 37 kickoffs. In addition, Sutton’s 58.9-yard average led the team even though Greene also had 24 kickoffs. Look for Sutton to assume kickoff duties once again in 2017.

Wade Lees (punter)

Punter was a disastrous position for the Terps throughout the 2015 season. However, things got a lot better in 2016. Australian Wade Lees had a good amount of success punting the ball for Maryland in 2017. Lees had the sixth-most punts in the Big Ten and averaged 39.8 yards-per-punt. Big things are expected of Lees again this coming season as he was named to the Ray Guy Award watch list, which is annually given to the nation’s top punter. Lees’ style may not be ideal, but similar results could come to fruition in 2017. The Terps certainly will be hoping that he won’t be needed on the field as much.

Matt Oliveira/Nate Adams (long snapper)

The long snapper spot features two players that have plenty of starting experience in Oliveira and Adams. Oliveira started the final 12 games in 2016 after Adams started all 12 games in 2015. Adams also saw action in five games as a freshman in 2014. Both players have a great deal of experience, so it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top in the next few weeks.

Kick/Punt Returners

This is definitely the most wide-open battle on the special teams unit. Will Likely was one of the most dynamic kick/punt returners that have ever come through College Park. But now he’s gone and it’s unclear who will take the reins in terms of returning kickoffs and punts. Wide receiver Teldrick Morgan handled the bulk of the punt return duties as he returned 15 of Maryland’s 25 received punts last year.

Whoever handles those duties likely isn’t going to be someone that did a season ago. Taivon Jacobs, DJ Turner, and Jacquille Veii are three of the most likely players that could handle the return duties. Star wideout D.J. Moore could as well, but it’s hard to see the coaching staff putting the extra workload on his plate. Moore did return 15 kickoffs last season and averaged 22.3 yards-per-return, so it’s definitely an option.

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Jacobs, Turner, and Veii are the more suitable option given their speed in the open field. All will contribute at the wide receiver position as well, but Turner could make the most sense due to his versatility. Regardless of who it is, they may not have a ton of experience, but they’re likely going to be very dangerous.