COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Florida State junior punter Shawn Powell realized that Maryland's Tony Logan would test him and the coverage team during Saturday night's ACC game.
Logan was third in Division I-A with an average of 19.4 yards a return.
"We're going to kick it to him, have our net out there and do what we've been doing all season," Powell said last week. "If we come out and do our fundamentals and what we've been taught, it doesn't matter who you really have out there, No. 1 or 101."
He's that confident in his leg.
He's that confident in the legs of the Seminoles' special teams players.
Entering the game, Powell was averaging an ACC-leading 45.2 yards per punt with 16 of his 39 attempts traveling at least 50 yards. FSU's net average was 38.8 yards (21st nationally). Opponents had a total of 129 yards on punt returns, and that's had a "huge impact" on the team's fortunes, coach Jimbo Fisher said recently.
"The collective effort on special teams is something that I haven't seen since I've been here," Powell said. "There's guys who want to be out here and not just, 'Oh, gosh. I have to be out here.' "
As much as that has motivated him, so too did the challenge he received from Fisher, who said Powell had the potential to be dominant after he averaged 41.6 yards in his first full season as the starter in 2009.
That was solid, to be sure, but not spectacular, and with a young defense learning a new system, the Seminoles needed their special teams to be very special.
"I'm glad he actually said that because it came up to me that they know you can do something, now prove it to them," Powell said. "It made me work harder and become the best punter I can be."
He embraced the challenge from his predecessor, Graham Gano, who handled kicking and punting at FSU, won the Groza Award in 2008 as the nation's top placekicker and is now the placekicker for the Washington Redskins.
Gano told Powell that if he weren't practicing and trying to improve his hang time or his consistency, he could be sure another punter would be; a punter who might end up winning a NFL roster spot instead of him.
"I know everything I have to do to make it to the next level, and I kind of put it on myself to make sure I don't cheat myself because I've been given a gift and I need to take full advantage of it," Powell said.
"He's been super," Fisher said. "He has worked his tail off. He's had a great attitude. What used to bother Shawn at times, I thought in the past, if he had a bad kick or warmed up poorly or something wasn't right, sometimes it affected him for long periods of time.
"What Shawn has done a great job of in my opinion is if something has went wrong, which has been very, very few times, he's forgotten it and moved on. I see it in practice every day. When he has a bad kick, hey, he goes right back and takes the next one. He's taken that challenge."