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2013 Preview – Special Teams

August 30, 2013

Kickers

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

In 2011, Brendan turned our field goal kicking game from cringe worthy into downright reliable.   Last year, he elevated it to a whole new level, creating, dare I say it – confidence?  Gibbons made 16 of 18 field goals last year, only missing from over 40 yards.  He also was a perfect 45/45 on extra points.   Gibbons has a strong leg, is reliable, and though we may not realize it, may end up being one of the better kickers in Michigan history.   Fingers crossed he can keep it up.

On kickoffs Matt Wile will get the call.  Wile has a strong leg and did a nice job last year.  There really isn’t a lot more you can say here, since this usually results in a touchback.

Punters

Starter: Matt Wile (Jr.)

Backup: Kenny Allen (RS – Fr.)

With Will Hagerup once again on “hiatus” due to a disciplinary issue, Matt Wile will step into the punting role – something he’s had to do for Hagerup before.  Truthfully, Hagerup has the better leg, but since he seems to be suspended more than he plays, it’s probably better to have Wile back there.

Returns

Starters: Dennis Northfleet (So.); Drew Dileo (Sr.); Jehu Chesson (Fr.)

For the first time since Steve Breaston wore Maize and Blue, it feels like Michigan has a legitimate home run threat in Dennis Northfleet on kick and punt returns.  Northfleet didn’t break one last year, but he always felt like he was one step away from doing so.  I expect that to happen at some point this year.   While Northfleet brings the home run ability, Dileo will be the singles and doubles hitter, always reliable and capable of making the safe play, but with some upside.  Jeremy Gallon, a former staple at this position will be a full-time receiver this year.  With the lack of depth at WR,  Michigan can’t risk an injury to him on kick returns.

STRENGTHS

The key word here is continuity.  Gibbons may be the best kicker in the Big Ten, and Wile, Northfleet and Dileo all have experience.  I really like that Gibbons has experience making big kicks in big games (MSU and the Sugar Bowl); it’s an asset we haven’t had in awhile.  

WEAKNESSES

If I had to name a weakness it would be the loss of Hagerup.  Wile is a very good punter, Hagerup is just better in terms of booming the big punt.  That being said, we’re nitpicking here – this is a very strong unit.  

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