Maryland Coach Ron Vanderlinden was surprised to hear last summer that Broadneck High punter-place kicker Brooks Barnard was going to try to walk on at the University of Oklahoma. Vanderlinden had recruited Barnard as a walk-on for his football team, in need of some added kicking depth.
Vanderlinden tried to sway Barnard to come to College Park with one final phone call. The call was unsuccessful then, but has reaped benefits now.
"I told him that if things don't go well for you, I'd love for you to come to Maryland," Vanderlinden said.
That's just what happened: Barnard, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound All-Met, had little opportunity to display his talents at Oklahoma, and the Sooners quickly cut him.
Barnard decided to take Vanderlinden up on his previous offer, and transferred to Maryland. He will be a redshirt freshman this fall, and will not be required to sit out a year because he was not recruited as a scholarship athlete by Maryland, didn't play for Oklahoma and didn't work with the Sooners during spring football.
"I'm back for good, and I'm glad to be home," Barnard said after his first day of practice. "I wasn't getting a fair shot out there. In fact, I wasn't getting [any] shot out there."
Barnard had a stellar career at Broadneck: He completed 96 of 99 point-after attempts and averaged 42.4 yards on punts. But the Sooners barely let him on the practice field, according to Barnard, who said he kicked off one time, warmed up to attempt field goals and never attempted a punt. About one week later, Barnard was given some cookies and a piece of paper telling him his services were no longer required but to try out again the next year.
"I never even got a chance to kick in front of anyone," Barnard said.
He's getting his chance here. Working with the newcomers yesterday, Barnard boomed several 60-yard punts during practice in addition to some flatter ones. He spent much of the rest of the time working on his drops.
Barnard will be competing with incumbents Sean Starner (punter) and Brian Kopka (place kicker) for playing time. Vanderlinden said he expects Barnard to contribute, and that he'd love to get some help in kickoffs, one of the Terrapins' weaknesses in recent years.
"That could be a big help for us," Vanderlinden said. "I think he can be able to contribute in [punting and kicking]."
Vanderlinden said kickers and punters often don't begin honing their skills until they reach college and can benefit from full-time coaching. He expects Barnard to improve under such a regimen.
"He has a strong leg, and he just needs to be coached and work on it," Vanderlinden said. "He'll give us some depth and competition."
Barnard said he's delighted to finally get a chance to show his skills. He doesn't regret his decision to try things at Oklahoma, but he's glad Vanderlinden called him that one final time.
"I matured out there, and it made me a better person," Barnard said. "I'm getting a fair opportunity here, and I'm glad to be back home."