The Wolverine

2018 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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118 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2018 FOOTBALL PREVIEW SPECIAL TEAMS BY JOHN BORTON Q uinn Nordin doesn't do anything in a shy, quiet, reserved manner. He blasted a 48-yard field goal in last year's spring game that might have been good from 70. To prove that wasn't any fluke, he bombed a 55-yarder in the season opener against Florida, in his first collegiate game on the field. Nordin nailed five field goals against Air Force. When he missed, it turned heads, like the three extra points that went awry. When head coach Jim Harbaugh barked at him during one particularly difficult stretch, Nordin barked back. "I'm an intense guy for a kicker," Nordin said. "Coach [Harbaugh] is an intense guy. I love the game; he loves the game. He wants to win; I want to win. "He wants to put the best player on the field. That's who it's going to be — who he wants out there. "It was awesome. I loved it, and it lit a fire under my ass a little bit. You've got no choice but to [respond]." Nordin responded throughout the year and plans to do so even more emphatically with a season under his belt. The honorable mention All-Big Ten performer connected on 19 of his 24 field-goal attempts a year ago, along with 35 of 38 point-after tries. He'd like to become Michigan's man on kickoffs this year as well. In the meantime, he's getting used to po- tential holders, such as sophomore punter Brad Robbins, redshirt sophomore punter Will Hart and fifth-year senior running back Joe Hewlett. Everything felt automatic with former Wolverine Garrett Moores holding, so there's an adjustment taking place, one that will get plenty of summer work. "Garrett was so good it didn't take any time," Nordin said. "With Garrett, the ball was down. We didn't really have to worry … it's just a timing thing essentially. It's just knowing the snap is going to get there to when you have to go." Michigan special teams coordinator Chris Partridge sees the snap-hold combination as but one of many items on the checklist for the Wolverines. He also views Nordin as one of several big-time positives for the U-M specialists. This spring, according to Partridge, Nor- din proved: "Lights out. He was really good. He wasn't 100 percent, but he's a competitor. He worked really hard. He wants to be the best kicker in the country. I really think he can attain that." Part of that process involves reaching a more even keel. Partridge fully appreciates the competitiveness and fire Nordin brings to the field, above and beyond the typical placekicker. The special teams boss also knows a cer- tain amount of Gandhi, rather than Rambo, serves well in the stressful role Nordin is asked to play. "As long as he keeps his emotions in check," Partridge mused. "He's like a line- backer playing out there. I wouldn't want anyone else. I can yell at him; he can yell at me. We can get after each other. I really like that about him. "He's a guy where you're 110 percent confident in him, because he's got confi- dence in himself when he goes out there. He's working on his craft and controlling his emotions. He'll be a go-to guy for us." Punters And Return Men Battle Michigan went to Hart at the start of last season, the punter handling those duties through the non-conference season. By the time the Big Ten campaign rolled around, Robbins got onto the field for the first time and punted for the Wolverines the rest of the way. Both faced some struggles, Hart averag- ing 37.7 yards per punt on 13 attempts, and Robbins 40.4 yards on 64 attempts. Robbins pinned 19 punts inside the opponents 20, and most importantly, gained invaluable experi- ence at the college level. That's no small piece of the puzzle for either player, Partridge stressed. "Will had a rough season last year. He was the starter, and he hit a tough patch," Partridge noted. "Brad went in, and they both had their ups and downs. The bottom PRESEASON ANALYSIS: SPECIAL TEAMS STARTERS ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Considering that Michigan played true fresh- men or redshirt freshmen at five spots last year — placekicker, punter, punt returner, kickoff returner and long snapper — it should be very solid this season. Those returning need to trans - late their first-year experiences into a major payoff in 2018. DEPTH ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ The depth behind redshirt sophomore place- kicker Quinn Nordin and sophomore punter Brad Robbins is unproven. Michigan features several very capable potential return men, should sophomores Donovan Peoples-Jones or Ambry Thomas have to miss a game. X-FACTOR The jump that Nordin and Robbins take will tell plenty. Nordin acknowledged some first- year inconsistency he's determined to work out, including three missed extra points, and finding a new holder will be crucial. Robbins can become more consistent at this level, following an exceptional prep career. OVERALL ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Michigan has done a strong job with Chris Partridge and Jay Harbaugh handling the special teams units, and they're better positioned to excel this year, given the experience. There are many showcase games on this tough schedule, including an opener under the lights at Notre Dame, where special teams always loom large. The Wolverines need all three phases this sea - son, and special teams could win them a couple of games. A Leg Up Placekicker Quinn Nordin Hopes To Build Off A Flashy Start "I'm an intense guy for a kicker. Coach [Harbaugh] is an intense guy. I love the game; he loves the game. He wants to win; I want to win. He wants to put the best player on the field. That's who it's going to be." NORDIN Nordin was an All-Big Ten honorable men- tion after he made 19 of 24 field goals (79.2 percent) and 35 of 38 extra points (92.1 per- cent), but he wants to be better in year two. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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