Kicking job still up in air

Maryland kickers Nick Ferrara (left) and Mike Barbour take part in practice.
Maryland kickers Nick Ferrara (left) and Mike Barbour take part in practice. (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)
- One never seems far from the other.

As they vie to be Maryland's field-goal kicker, second-year player Mike Barbour and true freshman Nick Ferrara are "1A" and "1B."

It has been that way for years: Barbour, more than a year older, trying to separate himself from the powerful-legged Ferrara, who played at the same high school on Long Island, N.Y., and attended training sessions with the same private kicking specialist.

As August preseason camp ended and the Terrapins began practice in earnest for their Saturday night opener at No. 12 California, coach Ralph Friedgen still couldn't bring himself Tuesday to name a winner in the place-kicking competition.

Ferrara, by virtue of his distance, appears likely to handle kickoffs and long-range field goals. But the other kicks? The competition remains as close as the width of a football.

"I think it'll be a game-time decision," said Friedgen, who had been ready earlier in camp to anoint Barbour the winner. But then Barbour missed three kicks - each between 40 and 46 yards - toward the end of an intrasquad scrimmage Aug. 23. So Friedgen declared the competition back on.

Friedgen has long seemed mesmerized by Ferrara's leg strength. Ferrara, 6 feet 1, 195 pounds, is the bigger of the two and briefly played lacrosse in high school. Ferrara is on scholarship, and Barbour is a walk-on.

Ferrara converted from 45 yards out in last week's final scrimmage, then followed with two successful kicks of 48 yards apiece. He said he has become more consistent in practice as he has adjusted to the speed of the college game.

"In high school, you probably have close to two seconds to get it off. In college, it's closer to one second," Ferrara said. "It's ideal at 1.2 seconds."

Ferrara has an accent - it seems a blend of Long Island and New York City - that makes him sound like a cast member on HBO's "Entourage."

His field-goal training may seem unconventional to some.

"I do hot yoga," he said. "You sit in a pretty big room. It's 135 degrees."

He says yoga helps with his flexibility and breathing. "When you kick, you use your back. In order to be a kicker, you have to be very flexible," he said.

Ferrara is hoping to replace Obi Egekeze, who rattled coaches last year by missing the first five kicks of his final season before improving. The departure of Egekeze, who had a solid Maryland career, left the Terps with no one who had attempted a field goal in a game.

Transfer Nick Wallace was deemed too inconsistent by Friedgen and dropped out of the competition during preseason camp.

Of the two remaining kickers, Barbour seems to be the one perpetually looking in the rearview mirror.

"I've been first on the depth chart since spring, but it could change," Barbour said. "All it would take is one day of me doing bad. It's probably going to come down to the last minute."

Barbour, 5-10, 155 pounds, calls the competition with Ferrara "friendly." He says all he can do is concentrate on each kick and try not to worry about the bigger picture.

Barbour typically takes his spot on the field and finds a point in the distance to focus on.

"I'll pick out different targets in between the posts, something small. I'll look for something high up and in the middle," he said.

Then he'll kick the ball and follow through.

And hope no one is gaining on him.

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