2016 Terps Season Preview: The Special Teams
The Maryland Terrapins will open their 2016 season on September 3rd against the Howard Bison. This summer, we have taken an in-depth look at each position on the team. They can be found here by clicking the links on the projected depth chart. This week, we will be taking a broader look at the team’s offensive and defensive units and their new coordinators. Next week, we will begin previewing the Terrapins’ matchup against the Bison.
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Pete Lembo – Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach
Lembo is one of two former head coaches who are serving as assistant coaches on Maryland head coach DJ Durkin’s staff. He was a four-year starter on the offensive line at Georgetown, graduating in 1992. While he earned his Master’s degree, he served as an assistant coach at Albany. From 1994-2000, he held various assistant coaching positions. He received his first head coaching position in 2001 at Lehigh, where he stayed until 2005. He then moved on to Elon, where he served as head coach from 2006 to 2010. His last job was as Ball State’s head coach from 2011-2015. During his 15 seasons as a head coach, Lembo compiled a 112-65 record, including a 33-29 record with Ball State.
The Cardinals set over 60 school records during Lembo’s five seasons at the helm. His most successful season came in 2013, when the team posted a 10-1 (7-1 Mid-American Conference) record, losing by 3 points to Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl. In that year, the Cardinals set single-season school records for points, total offense, passing yards, touchdown passes, and total touchdowns. Unfortunately for Lembo, the team was unable to achieve winning records in his final two seasons. However, he was not fired by Ball State, but rather resigned in order to serve on Durkin’s staff.
Lembo was hired by Durkin to be his assistant head coach, special teams coordinator, and tight ends coach on December 22, 2015. His teams have always had immense success on special teams, especially Ball State. During his five seasons with the Cardinals, the team always placed in the top three of the Mid-American Conference in special teams. He has coached five different players to all-conference status on special teams. In 2012, both Ball State’s kicker and punter were finalists for the Lou Groza and Ray Guy awards, respectively.
For the past four years, Maryland fans have enjoyed the immense pleasure of watching Brad Craddock serve as the team’s starting kicker. This season, the coaching staff has the unenviable job of replacing the 2014 Lou Groza Award winner. The young man who will be tasked with replacing Craddock is Adam Greene, a redshirt junior from Arnold, MD. His first game action came late in the 2015 season, when Craddock was out due to injury. During the four games in which he played, he converted all 11 of his PAT attempts, and went 3-for-5 on field goal attempts, converting from 25, 26, and 44 yards. He is a very talented kicker with a big leg, and should do just fine as Maryland’s starting kicker this season.
Last season was Maryland’s first without Nathan Renfro as their starting punter. While Renfro struggled with consistency at times, he was a relatively reliable option. However, last season saw enormous inconsistency at the punter position with freshman Nicolas Pritchard taking the job. He averaged just over 38 yards per punt, a number that is far too low for a team whose offense struggled to move the football. This season, 27-year old Wade Lees will hold down the punting job for the Terrapins. Lees is a former Australian Football League player who was banned from the for taking performance enhancing drugs. He has mightily impressed the coaching staff, who rave about his ability to punt the ball in many different fashions. “He can punt pro-style, he can roll out rugby-style, he can end-over-end, spiral. He can do it all,” Durkin told the Baltimore Sun after the team’s open scrimmage last weekend.
The long snapper position will once again be held down by junior Nate Adams, who started all of the team’s 12 games last season.
After his incredible season in 2015, William Likely returns as Maryland’s primary kickoff and punt returner. He averaged 22.54 yards on each kickoff return, and a whopping 18.22 yards on each punt return last year. He returned one kickoff and two punts for touchdowns. He jumped out to a record-setting start against Richmond last season, returning 8 punts for 233 yards and a touchdown. In the same game, he returned 2 kickoffs for 63 yards. It is unclear who will serve as Likely’s backup at both returner positions, but it looks as if Teldrick Morgan and JC Jackson will be given the first opportunities. However, Taivon Jacobs, Ty Johnson, and DeAndre Lane are all very capable of returning kicks, as are Tino Ellis and DJ Turner.
Last season saw an inconsistent punting game coupled with a solid kicking and returning game. This season, it looks as though all facets of the special teams unit will be running on all cylinders. Likely is the obvious star of this unit, but Greene and Lees are very talented options at kicker and punter, respectively. I am especially excited to see all of Lees’ different punting styles. Changing field position is something that the Terrapins struggled with last season, and it looks like that will all change in 2016.