Hello: JJ McGrath Comment Count

Ace January 18th, 2013 at 1:58 PM

With a simple tweet of "GO BLUE!" this morning, Macomb (MI) Lutheran North kicker/punter JJ McGrath announced his intention to accept a preferred walk-on spot in Michigan's 2013 class, choosing the Wolverines over LSU and Southern Miss. While McGrath won't be on scholarship to start his career, he'll have the chance to earn one when Brendan Gibbons's eligibility expires after the 2013 season.


McGrath isn't ranked on any of the four recruiting services, but he does earn a 4.5-star rating—on the border between Division I and Division II prospect—from Chris Sailer Kicking. They rank him as the #33 punter and #57 kicker in the 2013 class and give this evaluation:

JJ is a big time talent.  He is a big, tall, strong athlete that shows outstanding potential.  His best ball is as good as any 2013 punting prospect.  As he works on his consistency, the sky is the limit. I expect big things from JJ.  Also a very capable kicker and kickoff specialist.  Could be a top national combo prospect with hard work.  One to keep a very close eye on.  Nice prospect.

Listed at 6'2", 210 pounds, McGrath has plenty of size to put a solid boot behind the ball. He certainly showed off plenty of leg in his senior season, per 247's Todd Worly ($):

“I have three field goals of 57, 54 and 34 yards, all (kickoffs have been) touchbacks but one, a punting average of 45 yards and 100% on PAT’s,” McGrath said. The 57-yarder was a game-winner.

That was in October—by the end of the year, McGrath had connected on 8-of-11 field goals and all 26 of his extra point attempts with a punting average of 42 yards and touchbacks on 29 of 34 kickoffs. His head coach at Lutheran North talked to MLive in October about how much of an asset McGrath's leg was to his team:

["]The field position that he adds is number one,” Ryan Wesley said. “The scoring that he adds is number two. Being able to tell an opponent that their [sic] going to be starting on the 20 yard line, no questions about it, that is a great thing to be able to do.”

On the rare occasion McGrath doesn't boot a touchback, he's apparently not afraid to finish the job himself:

In fact, McGrath has had just one kickoff returned against him all season. As competitive as he is, McGrath was not afraid to make his opponent think twice about returning one of his kicks.

“The kid actually made it to me and I jacked him pretty hard,” McGrath said. “I was pretty angry that it didn’t go in (the end zone). I was pretty ticked off so I ran up and hit him pretty hard.”

With his leg strength, McGrath should at the very least be able to contribute as a kickoff specialist. If he can maintain accuracy on the thinner college goalposts, he'll also be in the running for starting placekicker—perhaps after Gibbons graduates, or more likely when Matt Wile is gone after 2014.


McGrath didn't receive any scholarship offers, but he reported interest as a preferred walk-on from Alabama, LSU, Michigan State, and Southern Miss, among others.


From the 247 article linked above, McGrath's junior stats:

McGrath was named First Team All-State as a junior, converting 8-of-12 field goals with a long of 53 yards. All of his misses came from beyond 50 yards. 22 out of his 27 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks, and he also averaged 44.6 yards per punt, with a long of 68 yards.

In his final two high school seasons, McGrath was a combined 16-for-23 on field goals and 42-for-42 on extra points while averaging 43.5 yards per punt and booting 51 of his 61 kickoffs for touchbacks.


Lengthy senior highlights:


McGrath should redshirt next season with Gibbons and Wile returning. With Gibbons and Will Hagerup (if he's even back next year) gone after 2013, we'll see if the coaches want Wile to handle kicking, punting, and kickoffs; if not, McGrath could compete with Kenny Allen for the punter job or Wile for starting placekicker, and he could also handle kickoffs if called upon. When Wile is gone after 2014, McGrath should have every chance to take over at kicker.


Since McGrath is a preferred walk-on, his commitment doesn't change the 2013 scholarship numbers; there are still a couple spots left with Michigan waiting on VA RB Derrick Green and TX TE Durham Smythe.



January 18th, 2013 at 2:01 PM ^

I went to high school.  I would be very surprised if JJ wasnt' the first D1 player out of that school.  Hope he gets a scholly.  JJ suddenly becomes my very favorite UM player.


January 18th, 2013 at 5:25 PM ^


I understand about the stigma of kickers and punters not being “Real” football players, but I have never understood why kickers are not more heavily recruited.  If you think about how many games have come down to a last minute field goals? How many bowl games? Drives that either end successfully with a field goal, or a team looses momentum with a miss.  It seems a kicker’s impact matters far more than how much they are recruited. 


Remember (or try to forget) when Michigan’s kickers were so bad they always went for it on fourth down, and how much pressure that put on the offense.  Knowing that your kicker will almost assuredly make an important kick is a boon to the offense and to play calling.


Welcome aboard.  Looking forward to him winning some games.


January 18th, 2013 at 5:52 PM ^

The reason is that the difference between a great kicker and a pretty good kicker isn't a whole lot, and because you really only need one or two of them on your team at a time.  Compare not having a good kicker with not having a good linebacker, or any other position.  Most teams take one scholarship kicker and one punter every 3-4 years, and then take a handful of kids as walk-ons for back up. 

Great kickers get scholarships, and almost every team has one or more on scholarship at any given time.  Good kickers, however, are a dime a dozen, so it doesn't make sense to use scholarships on those guys when there are guys like JJ McGrath and Kenny Allen every year who will come to your school on their own dime just to be on the team.


January 18th, 2013 at 2:36 PM ^

I know all of our recruits poop rainbows, but how is he not a higher ranked recruit?  If he's making 57yd fg's and getting touchbacks on all his kickoffs what more can he do?   I was expecting a line like he made 3 of 13 fg attempts and he needs to work on his accuracy, but that's not the case either.   Anyone have any insight into the kicker recruiting world to explain?  If I hear big frame, big leg, 57yd fg, 16 of 23 accuarcy I'm expecting him to be the #1 kicker in the nation.


January 18th, 2013 at 5:41 PM ^

A couple things to keep in mind:

In HS is Michigan (unless they've changed it), any kick that goes into the endzone is a touchback, you can't catch it in the endzone and run it out.  In college, those 1-yard deep kicks are almost always returned. 

Also in HS, FGs are kicked off of a tee, so it's a lot easier to kick long FGs than in college where you kick it off the ground. 

As the posts states, the goal posts in high school are wider than in college (which I didn't know until reading this post). 


January 18th, 2013 at 3:34 PM ^

year to coach him into form.  If he doesn't audition well next year, then nothing lost and we find another kicker.

But I think Hoke & Ferrigno will tighten his control (look at Gibbons' transformation) and we'll have length and accuracy. 

And a back-up punter to Wile and Kenny.  Great roster depth at K and P.


January 18th, 2013 at 4:33 PM ^

Kid will never pan out. Went to MSU kicking camp & finished in 5th place than tweeted MSU had offered scholership & they never recruited him. Kid is a bad apple.

From talking with M coaches best kicker in  state of Mich was Joel Schipper at Grand Rapids Christian who kicked FG with 4 seconds to go in State Finals to send to OT & than kicked game winner in OT.

Schipper was 12-14 on FGs with 3 from 48+ & set state record for consecutive PAT's.





January 18th, 2013 at 8:40 PM ^

This is the one that boggles my mind the most because, unless I'm doing it wrong, these words aren't even pronounced the same way.  "Than" rhymes with "Dan."  "Then" rhymes with "Ben."  People mix up there and their because they sound the same and you can get confused which is which, I get it.  Than and then just aren't the same.