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2012 Michigan Preview – Special Teams

August 30, 2012

Kickers

Starters: Brendan Gibbons (PK – Sr.); Matt Wile (KO – So.)

After last seasons Sugar Bowl, Brendan Gibbons has firmly grabbed control of the Michigan placekicking role.  And even if he hadn’t made the game winner, I’d still want him as my kicker merely because of this comment:

Gibbons made 13 of 17 FG’s last year and was 54/55 on extra points, if he can deliver that again, Michigan will be in good shape.  The only concern is leg strength, with his long being 43 yards last  year.  Apparently he’s been able to consistently hit for 50+ yards in practice, so that may no longer be a concern.

On kickoffs, Matt Wile has the stronger leg and will be handling, though with the new college football kickoff rules designed to limit concussions, I expect a lot of touchbacks.

Punters

Starter: Will Hagerup (Jr.) 

Backup: Matt Wile (So.)

Despite an early season suspension, Will Hagerup managed to wrestle the starting punting job away from Matt Wile last year, and enters 2012 as the starter.  Hagerup has the bigger leg, but Wile is more consistent. Hagerup will be the starter, but if he struggles, Wile will get the nod.

Returns

Starters: Josh Furman (So.); Jeremy Gallon (Sr.); Dennis Norfleet (Fr.)

Last year Jeremy Gallon proved to be an effective but not necessarily stellar punt and kick returner.  He was however, reliable and didn’t put Michigan in any bad situations.  Gallon be the starter for both kickoff and punt returns to start the year.  Opposite Gallon on kick returns will either be Dennis Norfleet or Josh Furman.  Furman is a bit of a surprise name, as the safety, though a high school running back, wasn’t expected in this role.  Norfleet is a shifty freshman who may be too good to keep off the field.  Norfleet has been described as a shiftier version of Steve Breaston, though he plays running back, not receiver.  Norfleet is the return man of the future (both on punts and kickoffs), but I don’t expect Hoke to throw him into the fire against Alabama.  The chance of a freshman mistake is too great.  But Norfleet is the guy to be excited about for the future.

STRENGTHS

With Gibbons, Hagerup, Wile and Gallon all building on their success from last year, there’s no reason to think this unit won’t be better this year overall.  Even a performance like last year from all four would go along way for Michigan’s season.

WEAKNESSES

Though consistent, there doesn’t appear to be a proven gamebreaker in the return game.  If Norfleet can live up to some expectations, that opinion might change by midseason.  In the interim, Michigan fans may have to be satisfied with consistent, but unspectacular results – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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