Terps may look beyond Torrey Smith for kickoff returns

Ankle injury lingers, slowing Maryland's once-explosive special-teams threat

October 17, 2010|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — — When the season began, Torrey Smith was not only Maryland's top kickoff returner, but among the best in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

But Smith — who entered the season with a school-record three career kickoff-return touchdowns — has been hampered by a nagging ankle injury.

Coach Ralph Friedgen said Sunday that he is considering experimenting with using different returners, at least until Smith gets healthy. The coach said the list includes Tony Logan, who entered Saturday's 31-7 loss at Clemson with the nation's best punt-return average (27.7).

"Torrey is not 100 percent right now, and we need to come up with a better answer there," said Friedgen, whose Terps (4-2, 1-1 ACC) will be looking for their first road win since 2008 when they play Boston College (2-4, 0-3 ACC) on Saturday. The conference records of Maryland's next two opponents — Boston College and Wake Forest — is a combined 1-6.

On kickoff returns, Friedgen said: "We're talking about [defensive back Dexter] McDougle, we're talking about [running back] Da'Rel Scott, we're talking about Tony [Logan], we're even talking about [safety] Kenny Tate."

Defensive back Trenton Hughes fielded two kickoffs for 38 yards against Clemson and would also appear to be in the mix.

Smith has been playing in games but not practicing because of the injury. "It hurts, but I'm fine," said the redshirt junior, who wore a disappointed look and spoke softly when interviewed in Clemson's Death Valley after the game.

Logan would be an intriguing choice to fill in for Smith, or to pair with him on returns. Logan has two punt-return touchdowns this season of 80-plus yards.

Asked about employing Logan on kickoffs, Friedgen replied: "We have thought about it."

The coach said he wasn't sure Logan's skills matched those needed on kickoffs. "The kick returner needs to get downhill right away and try to split people," Friedgen said.

He said Logan is best at making tacklers miss, rather than heading downfield immediately.

With Smith and Logan, Maryland entered the Clemson game first in the ACC in punt returns and last in kickoff returns. That was almost the reverse of last season, when Logan — still learning the craft — averaged 6.7 yards on punt returns and a healthy Smith averaged 25.7 on kickoff returns, third in the ACC.

Maryland was averaging 17.2 yards on kickoff returns entering Saturday's game. Against Clemson, the Terps averaged 19 yards on five returns.

The lack of solid return yardage meant that Maryland often had poor field position Saturday. The Terps started just one of their first eight drives beyond their 25-yard-line.

Friedgen and other coaches were frustrated by Maryland's mistakes, includes 10 penalties for 93 yards and a dropped interception by linebacker Adrian Moten with open field in front of him.

"We just left some plays on the field," defensive coordinator Don Brown said. "We left an interception out there that could have gone the other way for [us]."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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