(Looking back on Maryland's 9-4 season in 2010. First up: The punting and kicking)
This could really just be a post about one man. Because in 2010, Travis Baltz was the face of Maryland's kicking specialists.
He attempted all of the Terps' field goals, extra points and punts. He even stepped in for four kickoffs.
And, naturally, no one saw that sort of all-around effort coming. Mainly because it didn't seem like it would be necessary back in July.
That's because Maryland got Nick Ferrara back for his sophomore season. Ferrara was one of the few bright lights from the Terps' 2-10 season in 2009. But then he struggled early in camp, got hurt a few weeks in and couldn't ever seem to nudge Baltz out of the way once he got fully healthy.
Ferrara eventually reclaimed the kickoff duties, handling those chores rather well. Folks didn't play all that much attention, of course, but Ferrara did improve in that facet over his freshman season:
2009: 55 kickoffs, 58.9 average, 4 touchbacks, 1 out of bounds
2010: 66 kickoffs, 60.7 average, 5 touchbacks, 2 out of bounds
Overall, Maryland had 81 kickoffs to the 56 required in 2009, which says plenty about how much changed for the Terps in a season-over-season basis.
Still, the most obvious kicking contributions came from Baltz, the affable senior who capped a strong career as a punter with a staunch turn as a placekicker.
Baltz's four-year run as a starter left him all over Maryland's record lists: Tied for second in career punts (224), third in punting yardage (9,224) and fifth in punting average (41.1).
While there were times it seemed worth wondering of his efforts were a little too divided, Baltz wound up with a stellar final season. His average (41.7) was the best of his career, and he dropped 23 of 67 punts inside the 20 (including 10 that fell inside the 10).
Yet in many ways, that was expected. His kicking was not.
Baltz made his first field goal attempt --- a 24-yarder that ultimately provided the winning points against Navy --- and remained a reliable option throughout the season.
He was perfect on extra points throughout the regular season (53-for-54 including the Military Bowl) and wound up 14-for-18 on field goal attempts. Yes, he only attempted four field goals of at least 40 yards; but for a guy who hadn't kicked competitively since he was a high school senior in 2006, it made sense for Maryland to be smart about how he was used.
Ultimately, he was deployed with great effectiveness; his 95 points rank seventh on Maryland's single-season list and he tied for fifth in the conference this season in scoring. His 52-yard field goal against N.C. State was Maryland's longest since 2003.
Football is a zero-sum game for three positions more than any other: Kicker, punter and quarterback. No one is using more than one of any of them at a time (except for rare trick plays and will-they-or-won't-they-onside-kick chicanery), and they generally don't translate well to another position (a backup center, for instance, could move to guard).
Kicking and punting became a full-sum game for Baltz as a senior, and it was a test he handled well. For as much as it worried Ralph Friedgen in the preseason, the Terps' placekicking situation sorted itself out better than the since-fired coach could have planned.
With Baltz's one-man band gone, Ferrara a bit of a question mark after a lost season as a field goal kicker and no scholarship punter in the program he inherited, new coach Randy Edsall can only hope things will work out quite as well in 2011.