Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 166 of 267

C By Andy Reid onsidering the confluence of events that led junior kicker Matt Wile to Michigan, it certainly seems like he was destined to become a Wol- verine. Wile's father, grandfather, great grandfather and great great grandfather all attended Michigan for medical school. Peter Wile, his father, has been the San Diego State team doctor since 1986, growing close with Michigan head coach Brady Hoke and his staff during their two-year stint with the Aztecs (2009-10). Wile also bonded with the Hoke staff, but he wanted to move away from home for school. And when Hoke first accepted the Michigan job, he knew he needed a kicker. A week later, Wile was in Ann Arbor for an official visit. "It was really entertaining when that happened," Wile said. "My dad was so stoked. He was saying, 'Hoke is at Michigan! It's going to work out.' Epstein hit a program-record 57-yarder in 2001. When he did get the chance to regularstyle punt in the Outback Bowl, Wile averaged 48.0 yards on three attempts. "He's basically filling four roster spots," said Lance Ortega, the owner of CollegePrep Kicking Academy and Wile's tutor for nearly 10 years. "The hard part about doing something like that might not be Saturday, but Monday through Friday. Preparing for all four, you can't do it at practice, because you'd be dead. Especially toward the end of the season, you'd wear out. "At some point, it's more about mental preparation than physical. He had to be that young would be ready. But he was intrigued, and he met with the family. "He was hitting 35-yard field goals as a fifth-grader," Ortega said of his first meeting with Wile. "And that is unbelievable. I knew pretty close to day one that he could be a college kicker. It was just a matter of sticking with it." In sixth grade, Wile was already hitting the end zone on kickoffs with a full-size ball. In eighth grade, he started attending Ortega's weekly Sunday kicking clinics, competing mostly against high schoolers who were gearing up to kick in college. "After a while, I finally got the confidence to kick with the high school guys and started working with them every weekend," Wile said. "At the Sunday clinics, you start to build relationships with all the guys who show up, and you're competing with them Friday nights in high school. I had a lot of friends I would kick with, so it was always fun." Matt Wile Will Have A Lot Of Responsibility In 2013, But He Is Up For The Task In his last two years at Francis W. Parker High School, he hit 19 of 25 field goal attempts and booted 90 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Wile, who was invited to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl after his senior season, had one of the strongest legs of any kicker in the class. But he didn't want to settle. Big Leg, Big Opportunity When I got the call, my dad tried really hard not to push me in any direction. He wanted the decision to be mine. We took our visit to Ann Arbor. "I didn't want to commit until I took all my visits, because for me, my word is my bond. When I made a commitment, I wasn't going to drop it. When I came here, I really liked it. My dad was with me, and he said, 'Matt, Michigan is a really good place. There are a lot of good schools, but Michigan is a great school.' It ended up working out perfectly, and I came here." Now entering his junior year, Wile will have a lot on his plate in 2013. Because punter Will Hagerup was suspended for the season after violating team rules, Wile will take over full-time punting duties. That's on top of the responsibilities he had last season: Australian-rule style pooch punting, kickoffs and long-range field goals. Last year, Wile kicked 28 of 77 kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback, had a 35.0-yard average and a 34.0-yard net on nine pooch punts (all of which landed inside the 20-yard line) and hit two field goals, a 48-yard attempt versus Michigan State and a 53-yard try against South Carolina, the Wolverines' longest field goal since Hayden In 2012, Wile booted 28 of 77 kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback, had a 35.0-yard average and a 34.0-yard net on nine pooch punts (all of which landed inside the 20-yard line), and hit two field goals (48 and 53 yards). photo by per kjeldsen ready to go in all four of those situations, and he was. He's shown it. That's clutch." Starting Early When Wile was 8 years old and playing little league soccer, he scored on a goalkick, netting the ball from the opposite side of the field. The next day, Wile's father took him out to try field goals — just to see what would happen. "It was fun," Wile said. "It started out as a thing where my dad and I would hang out on the weekend. We enjoyed spending that time together. And I was getting better and better at it." After a few years of tinkering on the football field together, Matt and Peter reached out to Ortega for kicking lessons. Although Ortega has had several seventhand eighth-grade prospects come through his camp, this was new. He wasn't sure a kid Becoming An All-Around Kicker When Wile was in 10th grade, Ortega began asking him to focus on punting. "I always thought I was more of a field goal kicker, but Lance always thought I was more of a punter," Wile said. "Initially, I didn't like it as much. Punting is a harder skill to grasp, because there are more things that can go wrong. I never thought I had a chance to be a punter. "But whenever you see guys punting and kicking at a camp, there will be one or two coaches watching the kickers to see if they're good, and there are five or six guys watching the punters. There tends to be a lot more kickers than punters. "I thought, 'If I can get good at this, I will have an even better chance of going somewhere.' I started working on my punting more and more." Punting can be a frustratingly technical skill to learn — but after thousands of reps with Ortega, Wile was starting to get the hang of it. The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview  ■ 165

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