Editor’s note: This is part two of 10 positional previews on the Michigan football team entering this season.
By ERICK LEHMAN, Guest Reporter
Michigan had a strong special team’s season in 2013. The Wolverines will need to replace placekicker Brenden Gibbons, who made 141 consecutive PAT attempts. But the team is loaded with grade-A talent, and look to build on a historical season.
In the second of 10 position previews on the Michigan football team, Erick Lehman takes a look at the special teams unit.
Michigan enters 2014 with a fresh, yet familiar face at placekicker. Gone is Brendan Gibbons, who was a career 75-percent field goal kicker with a career-long of 52 yards. He was also known for connecting on 141 consecutive PAT attempts.
Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke was asked about his special teams unit at the team’s media day on Aug. 10. Senior Matt Wile seems in line to replace Gibbons.
“Matt Wile has good a good job in his career so far with the kicking,” Hoke said.
Wile served as Michigan’s punter and kickoff specialist after Will Hagerup was suspended for all of last season. Wile also subbed in as the team’s placekicker after Gibbons was suspended, nailing three field goals and five extra point attempts.
Hoke pointed out that Hagerup has had a good camp thus far and said it’s great to have him back on the roster.
Walk-on Kenny Allen was singled out as a hard worker who has developed on kickoffs.
Dan Liesman and Scott Sypniewski are battling for the long snapping duties, according to Hoke. “Losing Jareth Glanda, that’s a big loss, but Scott’s done a nice job,” Hoke said.
As for the return game, explosive speedster Dennis Norfleet looks to retain the role of Michigan’s primary return man. He totaled 938 yards on 40 kick returns last season.
But the junior will have competition with two blazing incoming freshmen gnawing at the position.
“A guy like Freddy Canteen, a guy like Jabrill Peppers, some of those guys have a skill set that we think is pretty good,” Hoke said. “The other part of that is having Drake Johnson back is a real plus.”
Key losses: Brendan Gibbons, Jareth Glanda.
2014 key players: Matt Wile, Will Hagerup, Kenny Allen, Dennis Norfleet, Freddy Canteen, Jabrill Peppers, Drake Johnson.
2013 stats (courtesy of MGoBlue.com).
Kick Returns-Yards: 46-1022
Punt Returns-Yards: 17-114
Kick return average: 22.2 yards
Punt return average: 6.7 yards
Average yards per kick: 59.7 yards
Net kick average: 37.5 yards
Field goals made-attempts: 16-23
PATs made-attempts: 49-49