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February 2, 2011

Punting coach weighs in on Terps signee Renfro

Nathan Renfro faced a bit of a dilemma as Signing Day approached.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound punter from Brentwood Academy in Nashville had preferred walk-on offers from Florida State and Maryland, plus a smattering of non-BCS-level scholarships. Late last month, Renfro told the Seminoles coaches he would accept their invitation. But on Tuesday, the Terps’ staff complicated matters a bit by offering a full scholarship.

Renfro immediately sought the advice of Chris Sailer, a former All-American punter and kicker at UCLA who runs a professional kicking instruction service. Sailer’s advice to Renfro was simple.

“He actually just said, ‘They offered me. What do you think? I told Florida State I would be a preferred walk-on.’ And in my opinion, it’s a no-brainer,” Sailer said Wednesday. “A scholarship is worth so much to you, obviously financially but also with the opportunity you’re given. Once you have a scholarship, it’s your job to lose. He was really excited, and it’s an overwhelming process that these young men go through. You have to be patient. … But he was ecstatic.”

Renfro faxed his letter of intent into the Maryland football offices today, giving the Terps an heir apparent to four-year starter Travis Baltz.

Sailer first met Renfro last June during a kicking camp in Tennessee. The former Bruins star was immediately struck by Renfro’s “extremely strong leg.” While Renfro’s consistency was lacking a bit, Sailer gave him several tips and went on his way. When the two met up again later that summer, the improvements in Renfro’s punting were noticeable.

“Between the first time I saw him and the second, you could just tell he worked extremely hard on his skill set,” Sailer said. “He came in and punted really consistently. With the improved consistency and the potential that he had, I really did see him as being a Division I scholarship punter. He had other things come up – footwork, get-off time, things like that. But now he was punting with the hang time, with the distance and with the consistency. That’s what you need in order to be a Division I scholarship punter.”

Sailer, who has also trained former Maryland kicker Obi Egekeze, wasn’t too familiar with Baltz or the Terps’ punting situation heading into the fall. Renfro still has to improve his “get-off” time and his footwork, but Sailer said he could see the future Terp compete for the starting job as a true freshman.

“I think that it’s difficult for any true freshman to play right away with the pressures of Division I football,” Sailer said. “But again, talent-wise, yes. He’s strong enough. His ball is no doubt a Division I ball when he hits one. It’s really the small things that you need to work on. The speed of the game is so much different than what he’s used to. Any freshman might struggle with the consistency [that goes along with that]. But I think Nathan is a guy that’s athletic enough and has the mental capacity to step in and punt for Maryland and do a good job. He could develop into an all-conference type of player, but with a true freshman, it takes time. He’s definitely one of a handful of [kickers and punters] today [across the country] that has a chance to sign and do a good job.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 2:10 PM | | Comments (0)

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About Matt Bracken

Matt Bracken was a lightly recruited football and tennis prospect out of East Lansing (Mich.) High School in 2001, but spurned all (nonexistent) scholarship offers to attend the University of Michigan. Matt graduated from UM in 2005, earned a master's degree in new media journalism from Northwestern University in 2006, and spent the first 11 months of his career as an online producer / videographer / blogger at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. He has worked at The Baltimore Sun since July 2007, where he currently serves as the deputy sports editor for digital.

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