Promising Return Units to Highlight Special Teams
In the hours leading up to last year's Humanitarian Bowl, Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen needed a punt returner. His primary option for much of the season, senior Danny Oquendo, was benched for the first half because he had missed curfew.
Friedgen preferred Oquendo because, well, the coach was confident Oquendo would catch punts cleanly. That, after all, is the first and most important objective in punt returning.
Friedgen approached graduate assistant Henry Baker, who coached the team's punt returners, and asked for a suggestion. It had to be someone who could catch punts cleanly, Friedgen emphasized. Baker offered wide receiver Tony Logan, then a freshman, and assured his boss that Logan could get the job done.
"You put your job on it?" Friedgen recalled asking Baker.
"My job?" Baker responded.
"Your job," Friedgen said. "You're the easiest one to replace."
It turned out Baker's job was safe, indeed. Logan returned six punts for 49 yards against Nevada, a performance encouraging enough for Friedgen to view Logan as the team's No. 1 punt returner heading into this season.
"We got a preview of Tony Logan being a punt returner in the bowl game, and I was always a guy who went with Danny Oquendo because he caught the ball, and if you're looking at punt returns, that's the first thing they've got to do is catch the football," Friedgen said. "But I think Tony is going to be able to return the ball pretty good. He's very shifty, very fast, and so I'm hoping to gain another offensive threat right there with him as a returner."
Logan will have to fend off a stable of younger options at the punt return position. Freshman defensive back Travis Hawkins and freshman running back Caleb Porzel were two players mentioned by Friedgen as guys who will get looks at being punt returners during preseason practices.
While the punt return spot still appears somewhat up in the air, Maryland's kick returner almost assuredly is locked in. Sophomore Torrey Smith set the ACC single-season record for kickoff return yards (1,089) and ranked third in the ACC in average kickoff return yardage (25.9 per return) last season.
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