COLLEGE PARK — Shortly before the start of preseason practice, Maryland kicker Brad Craddock saw some film from his freshman season in 2012.
His reaction: "Wow."
"My first year, I had no technique," said Craddock, an Australian who had never played organized football before signing with Maryland. "It was sort of like, 'There's the goals. Have a crack.' Now, I line up different. I face the ball another way. I'm really tense now [mechanically]. Before, I was really relaxed. It's complete opposite. It's crazy."
Craddock made just 16 of his 25 field goal attempts during that freshman season. But he has spent the past two offseasons working on his technique and continuing to build the understanding of the position he lacked when he arrived at Maryland.
The talent was always there. He could kick 50-plus-yard field goals even before he arrived in College Park. What he needed was refinement, which he has gained through time spent with the Terps' coaches and with former Ravens kicker Matt Stover.
Craddock made 21 of his 25 field goals last year and his coaches describe Craddock as even further along heading into this year.
"I don't know if there's a harder worker on our team in terms of working to prepare himself to be the best he can be," Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said. "The work he's done on his own to make himself the kicker he is today is remarkable. You have to congratulate the young man. He's one of those guys that is a student of the game and a student of kicking and the art of kicking. To watch what he's done, I'm very proud of him."
The biggest difference this year is Craddock's increased strength in the muscles important to kicking.
The 6-foot, 185-pound Craddock is bigger, stronger and more athletic than the now 46-year old Stover, but Stover was significantly stronger in those key muscle groups — such as hamstrings and quadriceps. When Craddock and Stover worked out together during the winter, Stover said Craddock could do only about one-quarter of the weight he could on the hamstring curl machine. Craddock also struggled with a quadriceps exercise that tested his muscular endurance.
So Craddock got to work and, according to Stover, improved his strength in those key areas.
"I believe he will be even better this year because he will be stronger and will be more durable," Stover said. "If you ask anybody who feels that way when they're over a ball and they're ready to kick it, when they feel strong and they feel like everything is going to hold tight, you can attack a ball like you've never attacked."
Craddock also continues to improve his technique and his understanding of kicking.
To Stover, Craddock's technique is "night and day" from where he was as a freshman. But Stover is even more impressed by Craddock's ability to now self-analyze and identify fundamental mistakes.
Unlike when Craddock was a rising sophomore, Stover said Craddock knows what to look for on film and can break down and identify what went wrong on each of his missed kicks, which helps prevent repeated errors.
"He's gone from a guy that can just bang the ball to an actual technique, fundamental, solid kicker who can overcome a miss — a guy who can actually correct a mistake and execute the next one," Stover said. "Mentally, he's gotten stronger. Therefore, he's confident within his ability that when he approaches the ball, he knows he's done everything he can to make that kick."
Craddock missed eight kicks during preseason practice drills, but seven of the eight misses were on attempts from 50 yards or beyond, and he still finished a respectable 37 of 45 (82 percent).
During one practice, Craddock made all five of his kicks, including one from 51 yards, despite torrential rain.
"I think he's going to continue to get better," Edsall said, "He wants to get better, and he's going to do whatever he can to get better."