Charles Bankins heads into his second season as Maryland's special teams and tight ends coach in far better shape than a year ago.
He knows who his kickoff specialist and field goal kicker will be. He's seen all of his tight ends over the course of a full season, for better or for worse.
And aside from Tommy Galt, he didn't suffer many personnel losses.
Which means a Q&A had the chance to be uninteresting. Fortunately for loyal readers, it was not.
You can check out more from Bankins on Devonte Campbell in the next couple days. For now, here's a rundown of his two units.
PS: You lose Tommy, but you have three other guys who have played, and you've got Dave Stinebaugh and Ryan Schlothauer. Does that almost look like a grab bag at this point?
CB: Oh, no. The other guys are trying to catch Devonte [Campbell] right now. Lansford [Watson], when I came in here he was the anointed and chosen one. He was going to be a starter and he never lived up to that last season. But I think he's starting to see it and understand it and mature a little bit. He's starting to close that gap. He and Matt Furstenburg, they're chasing Devonte, but they're closing the gap. You feel good about what they're doing.
Then Schlothauer's not too far behind and Stinebaugh's got some growing to do. He's a little fish in a big pond right now.
PS: Ralph has said Watson's thickened up a little bit. Is that the case?
CB: Oh, yes. I think he last weighed in at 261. Now, he put the weight on and it's making sure that's all good weight. That was a big issue for him because he was a wide receiver in high school and always felt himself [to be] a wide receiver. 'I'm an outside guy, I'll do the Y thing because you want me to, but I hope you flex me out.' He put on some weight right before I got here and got slower, so he's like 'Oh, no, there's no way I can do this.' So he cut a lot of weight last season that really hurt his playing time. He wasn't strong, he wasn't fast and he wasn't willing to be a Y.
I think now he's embraced the Y position. In fact, [Tuesday] he rooted a guy out on goal line that I've never seen him do before. It's a pleasure to see him mature and come around.
PS: How about Furstenburg? I don't want to say it just seemed like he was kind of there last year, but ---
CB: That's exactly what he was. He was just kind of there, he was happy with hanging in the back. We've addressed that with him. He's taken more of a leadership role. I think all of them last year were waiting [and thinking] 'Well, I'll play when Tommy leaves.' They just kinda were sitting back and waiting, and I said 'There's no rite of passage here. It's our job to recruit players and your job to keep your job as a player.' If you beat him out, you beat him out. I'm going to play the best guy.
PS: Schlothauer seems like the sort of guy you could just plug in down on the goal line and he's so tall and gangy --- can you see him earning that kind of a role?
CB: I can see him contributing a lot for us, in a lot of different ways, not just on offense but on special teams. He's a guy who will do anything you ask of him. He's up to 242 now. The good news is all the tight ends are up above 240. You like to be 260 ideally and still be able to run. He's a narrow-bodied 240. You'd like for him to get thicker, because of weight distribution, center of gravity, all that stuff.
PS: Let's look at special teams at this point. Obviously, Nick Ferrara and Travis Baltz seem like they're your established guys. How comforting is that?
CB: It's nice to know any of the guys you put in --- Ferrara, Baltz or Ted Townsley --- that you feel confident that they can go in and be serviceable. You saw how Nick came in for Travis last season and I feel comfortable from that. Nick has obviously grown from being a freshman. There's a lot he still needs to learn about the game. I feel comfortable with where they are.
PS: Do you think Ferrara did about as much as you would hope a freshman could do?
CB: He did more than what you expect a freshman to do, because he had to do three jobs. He had to punt, he had to kickoff and he had to be our field goal guy. All that being said, that's what you came here to do. He's got to get it done. He's got to be better, more perfect in our field goal operation. When you have the whole operation coming back, it's pretty good --- the snapper, holder, kicker. Tim Downs is a guy who is the unsung hero, because that was his first year being a snapper, too. He did pretty well.
PS: Aside from an occasional adventure.
CB: Well, the adventures were all on the punters. It hit them right in the hands and they dropped it.
PS: The Townsley punt [against Rutgers] comes to mind.
CB: Townsley, and Ferrara dropped two. And they were all in their chest. I can't fault Tim on any of that.
PS: The Townsley punt, can you believe that thing got off?
CB: I don't know how he got it off. [Laughs] I don't know. He was definitely living right, picking four-leaf clovers and having a horseshoe stuck somewhere. He had it all working. The stars were all aligned for that one.
PS: With the punt returners, is that the one big question mark?
CB: I don't think it's a question mark. [Tony] Logan did a great job. We have to get better as outside guys holding up. I think we rushed the punt well. We put pressure on the punter. We didn't get any hold up on the outside. That has to be addressed this offseason and this spring ball.
PS: And Torrey Smith's your guy in that role again on kickoffs.
CB: Torrey will be in that role again. We've got to have another guy opposite of him returning, because people want to kick away. That other guy has to be a threat.
PS: Do you think Caleb Porzel could be that guy?
CB: Porzel has a chance to be that guy. Avery Graham has a chance to be that guy. No. 23 [Da'Rel Scott] has a chance to be that guy. That could be a nice little backfield back there.
PS: In terms of overall special teams guys, the sort of guys you might see pop up on four or five different units, Cory Jackson was almost the epitome of that kind of guy. Who do you see as those kinds of guys?
CB: We are a faster team than we were last year. I feel like we have depth on all our units, special teams-wise, as far as speed and thickness. From the influx of linebackers we have, from the [Ryan] Donahues and the [Avery] Murrays, the Drew Glosters, the [Darin] Drakefords, all those guys will be great contributors on special teams. The [David] Mackalls, he's a young kid coming in who is a big, fast, physical player. [Marcus] Whitfield, a kid who redshirted last year. We have depth. I feel like we'll be a much faster special teams next year.