Will Hagerup's first punt went for 26 yards, second for 24. He finished the season with a paltry 36 yard average, down a full seven yards from last year.
After that Matt Wile came in and averaged 44 yards in 3 punts. His season average (accumulated during Hagerup's four-game suspension plus this game) was 41 yards per punt. Our emergency backup punter was better than our returning starter.
So what's wrong with Hagerup? Mechanics? Injury? Or has something gotten into his head?
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
Learn from yesterday...
Michigan is undefeated again in September and yet I am nervous for the future. Perhaps because similar starts to the last two seasons filled me with unbridled optimism for Michigan's return to the nations' elite. Mayhap the reason is that for a second week in a row I felt like the final score did not accurately reflect the play on the field. Michigan won by a lot but didn't get much play for their reserves, Devin Gardner most notably. I am made nervous by Denard's heavy load running the ball and seeming inability to hit the broad side of a barn down field, to the sideline, or even on screen passes. Looking closer at each aspect of Michigan's play:
- Michigan's defense is the most awesome "bend-but-don't-break" defense I have ever seen so far. Seriously, allowing 11 trips by SDSU's offense into Michigan territory and yielding only 7 points is both extremely lucky (no doubt at least partly true) and also a part of a trend at this point. Turnovers are the key of course, coupled with keeping the play in front of them/not giving up the big play. SDSU was the first team to win the TO battle against Michigan this season, but only because the stat doesn't include TOs on downs. Michigan forced three of those by jumping out to a big lead and by getting big stops at points on the field where SDSU was almost compelled to go for it on 4th down. The reason for this success is owed in large part to the longest plays given up Saturday being 30 yards, both on the ground and through the air. This defense makes big plays, but more importantly they give themselves enough chances to make them.
- Michigan's offense continued to slide towards one-dimensional with each poorly throw ball by Denard Robinson. Luckily Michigan didn't need to throw much with SDSU's defense yielding over 7 yards per carry, having no answer for Denard's legs. It was also good to see the OLine open up some running lanes for Smith and Fitz en route to 320 yards on the ground. I fear that the level of competition and lack of SDSU size up front made the running game look better than it should have been.
Michigan needs Hagerup back.Maybe Hagerup isn't the only answer. Wile's kicks are improving it would seem, both on KOs and punts, possibly because his nerves are settling down. Kickoffs regularly made it to the goal line and only 1 of 4 punts was returned for much while they averaged 49 yards per with a long of only 51(!). Now if we can get him a chance at the FG duties, maybe he can be an upgrade over Gibbons (doesn't seem possible to be much worse).
- The coaching staff continues to impress in all phases of the game, save possibly being willing to give Gardner a shot at a real drive. Borges again went with what is known to work until Michigan had a couple of scores lead before inevitably trying to force Denard under center. Mattison had a great game plan dialed up, containing Ronnie Hillman and rattling Lindley with constant pressure. For the first time this year it seemed like our D-Backs were the most suspect part of Michigan's defense, as they should be, and even there we have a few rays of hope.
Live for Today…
Several Michigan players should bask in the glow of their accomplishments:
1. Denard Robinson – With a stat line so much like last game it is spooky, Denard again dazzled with his untied shoes en route to 200 yards on the ground. Again he couldn't seem to get in rhythm with his receivers, looking like shadow of 2010 Denard at least in terms of efficiency. Over 20 carries/game is going to get him killed, but maybe not as much a last year. He seems to have a better idea of how not to get lit up, getting out of bounds or to the ground before contact much more often than last year.
2. Vincent Smith and Fitzgerald Toussaint – If these two continue to rotate in that would seem fine the way they both are playing. Both looked tough to bring down Saturday, breaking tackles and picking through traffic for YAC. Smith in particular looks to have that shiftiness back that excited the senses so much in 2009. Fitz should also be the #1 choice at FB, with his tough running style, decent size, and good ball security.
3. Michigan Defensive Line – These guys looked great finally, creating constant pressure in the SDSU backfield and forcing Lindley into less than 50% completions. Roh came alive, sacking and forcing a fumble. RVB was in there making big plays, and Mike Martin was held 100 bazillion times or else he would have sent Lindley to the hospital I have no doubt. This performance was extra encouraging since the SDSU OLine is supposedly pretty good.
4. Blake Countess – In his first really extended appearance, this kid showed why his hype is justified. I'm sure some completions were on his head for being out of position, but I saw him blanketing a receiver on a slant (that was completed despite great coverage) and making a great play on a fade to keep SDSU at 7 points to finish. I look forward to what UFR has to say about Countess's play as a whole.
5. Matt Wile – As noted above, Wile's play is improving steadily. I wouldn't be surprised to see him keep punting again next week and hopefully get a shot at the next FG try.
Hope for Tomorrow
Last week I said:
Bask in 3-0 for now, because this team is looking to be on much the same course as last season so far. I think that our reliance on Denard Robinson will actually help us next week against SDSU, because our offense will not look like what Rocky Long remembers a Borges offense looking like. Then again, our run defense might get gutted by Ronnie Hillman. SDSU will put a scare into us at least.
I think I was right on the first part (at least theoretically, does anyone really have an answer for Shoelace?) while being thankfully wrong on the second (though Hillman did rack up pretty good numbers, he didn't kill us), and now we can bask in 4-0 and another undefeated September. So what can we hang our hopes on that this season is not doomed to end up like the last two?
I'll just stick with what I thought a week ago:
Our biggest hope for the whole season may actually be Borges's willingness to adapt to Denard's strengths as well as Mattison's willingness to use naked aggression to mask our defense's glaring flaws.
The only caveat to this reason to hope is that we are going to need a QB that can hit is receivers in BIG 10 play. The athletic abilities of BIG 10 defenders are going to both bottle up and punish Denard if he can't keep them honest through the air. With Denard's struggles throwing so far, I am both surprised and made nervous by Devin Gardner's lack of playing time. Is Gardner just not impressing enough in practice that Hoke/Borges feel it important to get him some meaningful snaps? Is the success of the team so far goading the coaches into keeping all of the eggs in the Denard GO! GO! GO! basket?
Though it would be a knock against the coaches in my mind, I hope it is the latter. I mean, maybe Denard lights it up in practice, completing ropes 30 yards to the sideline and hitting his TEs in stride. At some point this is going to have to become reality in games or else the one-dimensional nature of our offense will get Denard hurt, and leave us wondering yet again what could have been.
Go Blue and stay safe.
Rather than continue tweeting about Matt Wile and his accomplishments as a punter, I'll just post this email his coach sent me. Here are Wile's stats from his senior, junior, and sophomore years as a punter:
Here is a video of him in 2010 at a kicking camp. He kicks five balls and averages 51.2 yards. Probably the most recent data of his abilities. He was also the punter during the Army All American game.
You can make your own assumptions or come to your own conclusions about this information.
Edit: Sorry, this has already been posted.
As of recently, Scout had K Commit Matt WIle as an NR. Turns out, they think we got ourselves a pretty darn good kicker.
|2011 Scout.com HS Football Rankings (full list):|
|Pos: K||Pos Rank: #4||Pos Rating:|
That's right. The number FOUR kicker in the nation. One of only 9 to get that coveted third star.
Rivals still has him at a 2 star, 5.3, and ESPN still logs him as a 74, but it looks like Scout has made a much more recent update.
That should push us nicely ahead of certain folks in East Lansing. I know it's just recruiting, but any time we can beat Sparty...
We might as well get this post up today since the list is growing by the minute it seems. If anyone had concerns about the new coaching staff and their recruiting ability, they're probably not asking anymore. Brady Hoke seems like he's in 10 different places at once, and the buzz they've started to create in a short amount of time has been outstanding. Here's a look at the visitors list so far for this weekend. Remember this list will continue to grow, and could shrink so check back.
- Commit RB Justice Hayes (4 Star, 5'10", 175 lbs)- Justice being on campus this weekend will help with recruiting. He's been talking up Michigan to quite a few recruits now.
- DB Stefan McClure (4 Star, 5'11", 170 lbs)- Defensive back out of California. Has a good relationship with Hoke from being at SDSU. I think Michigan has a real shot with Stefan.
- DB Raymon Taylor (4 Star, 5'10", 165 lbs)- Raymon might decide to wait a little bit to commit, but I think it's safe to say he'll most likely pick Michigan.
- K Matt Wile - (6'2", 210 lbs)Here's my interview yesterday with Matt's coach. I wouldn't be surprised if Wile was a Wolverine by Tuesday.
- TE/LB Frank Clark (3 Star, 6'2", 210 lbs)- Glenville prospect that I think Michigan has a good chance with.
- OL Tony Posada (3 Star, 6'5", 315 lbs)- The coaches were out to Florida this week to see Tony, and I think this visit will be his last. He should be firm to Michigan again.
- LB Leilon Willingham (4 Star, 6'3", 230 lbs)- I spoke to Leilon's coach today, and it looks like this visit is happening. Willingham is committed to Texas A&M and was supposed to visit the Aggies this weekend. If he cancelled that trip to visit Michigan then that's a pretty strong statement.
- DB Tamani Carter (3 Star, 5'11", 172 lbs) - Michigan's newest commit is visiting.
Michigan's kicking woes this season forced the coaching staff to search for another scholarship kicker in the 2011 class. Rich Rodriguez had secured former Boise State commit Matt Goudis (6'0", 165 lbs) after many thought Goudis would stick with Boise. Once the old staff was fired Matt decided to take his talents to South Beach and commit to Al Golden at Miami, which left Brady Hoke searching for another solid kicker.
Lucky enough for Hoke he had already established a relationship with uncommitted kicker Matt Wile (6'2", 215 lbs) out of San Diego, California. Wile's head coach John Morrison says that relationship wasn't too hard to build. "Matts dad is the orthopedic surgeon on the athletic staff at San Diego State where Brady (Hoke) came from. They offered Matt two years ago at SDSU," Morrison said. "You guys are getting a heck of a coach, too. We're sad to see (Brady Hoke) go. I'm a big fan of his, he'll get that thing turned around really fast, I watched him do it at SDSU after 4 or 5 guys butchered it."
"It's funny now that Coach Hoke is out at Michigan, it's almost like it was meant to be for Matt. His dad and his grandfather are both Michigan grads. About 7-8 years ago Matt traveled with his dad to Ann Arbor when SDSU played Michigan, and went out on the field at halftime to kick field goals," Morrison recalls.
The coincidence has struck a cord with Wile, and he is scheduled to visit Ann Arbor this weekend (January 21st). Matt holds offers from Air Force, Michigan, Nebraska, and Washington as well. "He actually pushed back the visit to Nebraska to take the Michigan trip. I can't imagine he won't have a great visit, he already knows the coaching staff and he's already been on campus with his dad," said Morrison. "Coach Ferrigno (Special teams coach for Michigan) was actually out here the other night to see Matt, then he swung by the school to pick up his transcripts." The transcripts seemed like just a formality since Wile holds a 4.0 GPA.
Even though the cards seem to be in Michigan's favor, Coach Morrison doesn't believe Matt will make his decision while visiting Ann Arbor. "He told Nebraska that he won't commit on the Michigan trip. He wants to sit down with his family, take 24 hours and think about it. He's been very up front with all the schools. I would be surprised if he committed on the visit, but I wouldn't be surprised if he decided to commit after 24 hours," he said.
Wile averaged 42 yards per punt this season, kicked field goals and extra points, was captain of his team, and the kicker for the West team at the Army All American Game.