Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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st times when Jake needs to be out there, and you have to be smart. You don't want to overdo with the starters, but you can't be bad on special teams because you're resting guys." There will undoubtedly be youngsters on the coverage teams next season — and one, in particular, has already proven himself. True freshman defensive back Dymonte Thomas, who is projected to be the nickel back in certain defensive packages, is the perfect gunner on kick coverage. "That guy is going to be on special teams, I can tell you right now," Ferrigno said. "Jarrod Wilson played a ton on special teams last year and did a great job. There are kids like that on our team, and they make us better. As we continue to recruit, it's only going to get better and build more depth." Kicking Game Ready For A Big Year Unfortunately, the Wolverines will not have the services of punter Will Hagerup, who is serving a one-year suspension with the chance to come back as a fifth-year senior in 2014. But thanks to the big leg of junior do-everything kicker Matt Wile, the punting unit should not miss a beat next season. In the last two years, Wile has punted 29 times, averaging 39.2 yards per kick. His average isn't indicative of how strong of a punter he is, having served as Michigan's primary short-yardage and pooch-punting option last season. Showing tremendous control and accuracy, Wile dropped nine of his 12 punts inside the 20-yard line last season. Wile took over as full-time punter in Michigan's bowl game, kicking three times for an average of 48.0 yards. Comparatively, Louisiana Tech's Ryan Allen's 48.04-yards-per-punt average led the nation in 2012. "Punting was not something that, when we recruited him, we were really thinking about. Our thoughts were placekicker," Ferrigno said. "But he has been pressed into duty, and he has done a tremendous job. His first game was in The Big House against Western Michigan, and he's out there punting. "The way he finished up last year, I like him as a punter. He is really coming along." As he did last year, Wile will also handle kickoff duties and long field goals. Preseason Analysis: Special Teams Starter ✪✪✪✪✪ The Wolverines are returning experience at every key special teams position, with fifth-year senior kicker Brendan Gibbons, junior Matt Wile (who kicked two field goals last year, handled kickoffs, pooch punted and took over as starting punter by season's end), punt returner Jeremy Gallon, kickoff returner Dennis Norfleet, holder Drew Dileo and long snapper Jareth Glanda. What was a solid unit last year should be even better this season. ✪✪✪✪ Depth For most teams in the country, losing the starting punter for a yearlong suspension would be a huge blow. The Wolverines, who will be without the services of redshirt junior Will Hagerup, won't miss a beat, because of Wile's strong leg. Between Gallon, Norfleet, Dileo and more untested options such as sophomore wide receivers Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, the return game has plenty of options. And the front lines of the special teams units will be stocked with a mixture of starters and promising youngsters who have proven they deserve to see the field in some capacity. X-Factor Norfleet may break one in 2013, but the special teams X-factor is Dileo, who is a great No. 2 on kick returns, signaling to Norfleet when to take off and when to hold back. He is also a good lead blocker. He's a fantastic holder on field goals and can spring up and get the necessary yardage on fake kicks. And he's a secure punt return specialist. ✪✪✪✪✪ Overall The Wolverines are going to have, top to bottom, one of the best special teams units in the Big Ten, if not the country this season. There are some concerns about coverage on kicks and punts, but that's a focus for the coaching staff this offseason. The kicking is top notch, and the returners are getting better every day. Note: Star rankings are made on a scale of 1-5 stars. Wile attempted three field goals last season, hitting a 48-yarder against Michigan State and a 52-yarder against South Carolina. He missed a 53yard attempt at Nebraska. Ferrigno said he has seen Wile hit a 58-yarder in practice. Gibbons will continue to handle anything shorter than 50 yards. In his career, Ferrigno has rarely split the field goal responsibilities like this, but so far he has been pleased with the results. "We have another guy who can kick the hell out of it," Ferrigno said. "We want to have a role for Matt, so Brendan isn't out there wearing his leg out before practice, trying to kick 50-yard field goals. I like having two, because it takes a little bit of the load off the short guy — well, he's not really the short guy, because he can hit 48-, 50-yard field goals. But Gibby can concentrate a little more on that." U-M Has Options In The Return Game The Wolverines found an explosive option in the kickoff return game last season, deploying then-freshman Dennis Norfleet to field kicks. Norfleet racked up 827 yards on 35 returns (which both rank second in Big Ten Rankings KICKERS 1. Jeff Budzien, Sr., Northwestern — The 2012 Bakken-Anderson Big Ten Co-Kicker of the Year, Budzien set the NU single-season record in field goal percentage after converting 19 of 20 opportunities (95.0 percent), including 6 of 7 from 40 yards or longer (85.8 percent). 2. Mike Meyer, Sr., Iowa — The reliable senior made 16 of 19 field goal attempts a year ago (84.2 percent), and is a perfect 66 of 66 (100.0 percent) on point-after tries over the last two seasons. 3. Brendan Gibbons, 5th-Sr., Michigan — The veteran has grown into a consistent kicker that is at his best in the clutch, and he hit 16 of 18 field goals (88.9 percent) and 45 of 45 extra points (100.0 percent) in 2012. 4. Mitch Ewald, 5th-Sr., Indiana — An honorable mention All-Big Ten honoree last season, Ewald ranks third in the IU record books with 44 career field goals and sixth with 237 total points. 5. Drew Basil, Sr., Ohio State — OSU's juggernaut offense attempted only 11 field goals a year ago, but Basil made good on eight tries (72.7 percent), including a 52-yarder. PUNTERS 1. Mike Sadler, Jr., Michigan State — The All-Big Ten first-team selection averaged 43.3 yards per kick, including 19 punts of more than 50 yards, and pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line 31 times. 2. Cody Webster, Sr., Purdue — The strong-legged senior averaged 42.9 yards per punt, the sixth-highest single-season average in school history, and had 11 kicks downed inside the 20-yard line. 3. Justin DuVernois, Jr., Illinois — The inept Illini offense provided DuVernois plenty of opportunity to show off his leg, and he responded by averaging 41.9 yards on 73 punts, including a conference-best 72-yarder. 4. Drew Meyer, So., Wisconsin — The busiest punter in the conference, Meyer launched 80 punts for an average of 41.5 yards. 5. Brandon Williams, 5th-Sr., Northwestern — Entering his fourth season as the Wildcats' punter, Wilson finished seventh in the conference in punting average (39.9 yards per punt) and placed 21 punts inside the 20-yard line. UNITS 1. Northwestern — The Wildcats employ the best kicker in the conference in Jeff Budzien, and versatile running back Venric Mark has consistently haunted opponents as a kick returner with his speed and shiftiness; Mark led the Big Ten in all-purpose yardage last season (167.0 yards per game). 2. Michigan — Brendan Gibbons continues to develop into one of the more dependable kickers in the Big Ten, and return man Dennis Norfleet averaged 23.6 yards per kickoff return, but U-M must find a replacement for 2012 Big Ten Punter of the Year Will Hagerup, who is suspended for the 2013 season. 3. Ohio State — Corey Brown has proven lethal in space, leading the Big Ten with a 12.3-yard punt return average and two touchdowns in 2012, and kicker Drew Basil is experienced and effective when called upon. 4. Iowa — Jordan Cotton was absolutely electric in the return game a year ago, averaging 28.2 yards per kick return including a 92-yard touchdown, and mainstay kicker Mike Meyer sits fifth in school history with 229 career points. 5. Wisconsin — Jared Abbrederis, Melvin Gordon and Kenzel Doe are all home-run threats as kick returners, but the Badgers finished dead last in the conference in hitting only 10 of 18 field goals as a team (55.6 percent) in 2012. The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview  ■ 169

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