April 26, 2006
College Park, MD (CSTV U-WIRE) -- During Monday afternoon's practice, the Terrapin football team went 11-on-11 on one practice field, with passes zipping through the air and players lining the sidelines to watch.
Meanwhile, the ball fluttered through the air on the third practice field that sits beyond Shipley Field's right-field fence.
While the eyes of fans are fixed on the battle between Sam Hollenbach and Jordan Steffy for the starting quarterback job, there's another competition raging at a position often counted on in the clutch - kicker. Vying for the job are redshirt freshman Obi Egekeze - who missed last season with a thigh injury - and junior Dan Ennis, last year's starter.
Special teams coordinator Ray Rychleski said Monday that Egekeze is "a hair" ahead of Ennis after Sunday's scrimmage. Ennis went 2-for-4 on field goals and 3-for-3 on extra points, while Egekeze connected on 4-of-5 field goal attempts and did not attempt an extra point.
Rychleski said he was nervous about how the competition is going, with inconsistencies abound.
"They did good, but they missed some cheap ones," Rychleski said. "You can't miss an easy one. ... I wish we were a little further along right now."
When the Terp offense reached the red zone but couldn't cross the goal line, both Ennis and Egekeze failed to split the uprights; each missed from inside 35 yards.
Egekeze nailed a 37-yarder in his first attempt, but wasn't consistent.
"Obi had a chance probably to win the job, and he misses a 25-yarder straight on," Rychleski said.
In the Terps' first scrimmage, both kickers showed long-range ability, making 47-yard field goals.
"We've both had good days. We've both had not-so-good days," Ennis said. "It's been a competition. ... And it's one of those things where you just have to work at it and just keep with it."
And while Rychleski and coach Ralph Friedgen are reminded of the kickers' spring makes and misses on a daily basis, it isn't the only criterion in the competition.
Coaches often talk about games being won and lost in the kicking game, and Ennis missed two field goals in the Terps' final game that could have potentially sent them to a bowl game.
Ennis went 6-for-14 in his final 14 attempts last season after making his first 11 kicks. Rychleski said he has taken the opening streak and late-season struggles into account.
"He had a decent year. It's just that he followed a kid who was the best kicker in ACC history [Nick Novak]," Rychleski said. "His misses were tough misses. ... But the job's still wide open. He has to have consistency about himself."
Ennis won the starting job by default last season when Egekeze went down in fall practice. The incumbent starter said he hopes Friedgen and Rychleski look at his positives, but also said his inconsistency can't be ignored.
"I'm a little nervous about it," Rychleski said of the kicking competition. "Saturday will be another performance."
But the Terp coaching staff isn't nervous about its punter, junior Adam Podlesh, who has twice been a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award for the nation's top punter. Podlesh has started every game of his career, averaging just more than 43 yards per punt.
Podlesh, who has proven his worth as an in-game weapon when the Terp offense sputtered, has been booming punts this spring. In Sunday's scrimmage, Podlesh averaged 48.7 yards per punt and pounded out a 53-yarder.
Returning those punts has been more of an adventure for the Terps, who haven't returned a punt or kickoff for a touchdown in the past two seasons. Freshman receiver Danny Oquendo has been the most sure-handed punt returner, with sophomore safety Christian Varner and freshman receiver Terrell Skinner also getting opportunities.
And opportunity is just what the special teams has been all about this spring.
(C) 2006 The Diamondback via CSTV U-WIRE