Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 61 of 267

Game-Changers Michigan Has A Storied History Of Explosive Kick And Punt Returners N By Andy Reid o singular play can swing the tides of a football game as dramatically as a special teams touchdown. There were 127 total punts and kickoffs returned for scores in the country last season. And teams who enjoyed the momentum-shifting returns compiled an impressive 91-36 record (71.7 winning percentage). The Wolverines, despite the breakout season of then-freshman kickoff return specialist Dennis Norfleet (35 returns for 827 yards, 23.6 yards per attempt), did not break a big one in 2012. Michigan hasn't seen a kickoff returned for a touchdown since Darryl Stonum took one back against Notre Dame in 2009, and no player has reached the end zone on a punt return since Martavious Odoms gashed Purdue for a 73-yarder in 2008. However, the program has a rich tradition of return specialists. And with Norfleet handling kickoffs and fifth-year senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon on punts, the Wolverines could see some exciting returns in 2013. U-M's First Great Punt Returner It happened 66 years ago, but Gene Derricotte can still vividly remember the thrill of a perfectly executed punt return. He recalls every detail of the rush with a glimmer of excitement in his voice, all the way down to the lead blocker who sprung him loose. The Wolverines traveled to Madison, Wis., on Nov. 15, 1947, to play in sleet and snow In 1947, Gene Derricotte returned three punts for touchdowns, a single-season U-M record that still stands, and he totaled four scoring punt returns in his career. photo courtesy Bentley Historical Library with a potential Big Ten title on the line. Derricotte received a punt on the Michigan 23-yard line and saw what every return specialist dreams of: a wall of winged-hel- Top Five Punt Returners In U-M History Steve Breaston holds the U-M records for most punt returns (127) and most punt return yards (1,599). photo by per kjeldsen 60  ■  The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview 1. Steve Breaston, 2003-06: Breaston burst onto the scene, racking up 45 punt returns for 619 yards (both U-M single-season records) and two touchdowns as a freshman in 2003. He barely slowed down from there. After four seasons and many game-breaking returns, Breaston left Michigan as the most decorated punt returner in program history with 127 returns, 1,599 yards and four touchdowns. The all-time NCAA record for career returns is 153 (BYU's Vai Sikahema, 1981-85) and career yards is 1,761 (Texas Tech's Wes Welker, 2000-03). 2. Gene Derricotte, 1944-48: Any record that has stood — and still is standing — for the last 65 seasons deserves mentioning. In 1947, Derricotte returned three punts for touchdowns in one year — something no other Wolverine has ever done. Derricotte's feat of four career touchdowns has been matched twice (by Breaston and Derrick Alexander), but never surpassed. Derricotte amassed 773 yards on 55 career punt returns. His career average of 13.7 yards per return ranks second in program history (minimum 30 returns), behind George Hoey's 17.3 (1967-68). 3. Anthony Carter, 1979-82: Carter, one of the best wide receivers in Michigan history, had a huge introduction. At the end of the first quarter of the 1979 season opener, he sprung free for a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown in a 49-7 romp of Northwestern, his first game in a Michigan uniform. Carter went on to set Michigan records in career punt returns (79) and yards (904), which were both broken 24 years later by Breaston. 4. Derrick Alexander, 1989-93: Alexander is the lone player in modern Michigan history to tally multiple punt return touchdowns in multiple seasons. As a junior in 1992, Alexander burned Michigan State for an 80-yard punt return and Indiana for a 70-yard score. He followed that up as a senior with a 48-yarder against Penn State and a 79-yarder versus North Carolina State in the Hall of Fame Bowl, the only postseason punt return touchdown in program history. Alexander ranks sixth in program history with 534 career yards. 5. Dave Brown: 1972-74: Brown may not have been the most prolific returner (seventh in program history in career punt return yards with 531), but he had a knack for finding the end zone, with three career touchdowns. Brown is the lone player in Michigan history to tally two punt returns touchdowns of more than 80 yards, an 88-yard touchdown versus Colorado in 1974 and an 83-yarder against Navy in 1972.

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