The Wolverine

October 2011

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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small contraptions made out of PVC piping to steady balls for field goals, or boom punts to no one in particular. These are the kickers, the loners. Almost every kicker at the Football Bowl Subdivsion level will seek extra, specialized help, from various kicking coaches around the country. When Brendan Gibbons, now a redshirt sophomore, struggled through the 2010 season, hitting just 1 of 5 field goals, he and his father, Shawn, started looking for a new camp to attend. Gibbons caught up with professional kick coach Gary Zauner via Facebook toward the end of the season. Zauner, who coached special teams in the NFL from 1995-2005, has run a successful kicking clinic for 11 years, and he has worked with some topflight NFL kickers, such as former Viking Gary Anderson and former Lion Eddie Murray. confidence��that he may not have had before. ���It was mental,��� Gibbons said, of his 2010 struggles. ���My technique wasn���t sound. But you have to have a little confidence and a swagger to you. You have to know you���re going to make the kick. If you���re not confident, it���s probably not going in. ���I only kicked a couple field goals the first couple games last year, but the problem started weighing on the whole special teams by midseason. It really hurt, not scoring those points, but this year���s a different story. We���re going to go out there and execute.��� Gibbons visited Zauner once more, a week before fall camp began. ���Every time I saw him, he had made a lot of improvements since the last time,��� Zauner said. And it wasn���t just his mechanics �����by late July, Gibbons had dropped weight, got in shape and vastly in- ��� Professional kick coach Gary Zauner on Gibbons ���If he kicks like I saw in practice, he���ll be fine. If he puts extra pressure on himself and changes his kick in pressure situations, he won���t have the success he should have.��� What they found was that when Gibbons was kicking around a soccer ball or just goofing around with a football, he had a great deal of natural kicking ability. It was only when he lined up to take field goals that his body became rigid, his movements mechanical and his results mixed, at best. ���Brendan had a big leg, but when he came to me, I didn���t think he had very good kicking skills or technique. He did have a tremendous amount of potential,��� Zauner said. ���You���d see him hit one ball, and it would be like, ���Whoa,��� and the next wouldn���t be the same. ���I would tell him, ���Just relax and kick it like it���s any other ball. If you get your footwork right, it���s going to go anywhere you want it.������ During those first sessions, Zauner noticed another cause for concern. ���When I first saw him in January, he had this big hook,��� Zauner. ���So when he did miss, he would miss by a wide margin, and it wouldn���t be a good-looking football.��� Gibbons left Arizona after the oneon-one session with a wealth of personal videotape, a new understanding of his mechanics and a level of creased his bench press and squats. ���He���s been great all fall,��� head coach Brady Hoke said. ���He worked hard over the summer. Mentally, he has himself in a good place. He���s been very consistent all fall camp, and to this part during the season.��� For all the work he has done with Gibbons, Zauner can���t recreate a do-or-die field goal. Through four game in 2011, Gibbons has had two attempts. With a cushy 28-3 lead over Eastern Michigan, Gibbons knocked in a chip-shot 21-yarder, but he missed a 40-yard attempt versus San Diego State. ���If he kicks like I saw in practice, he���ll be fine,��� Zauner continued. ���If he puts extra pressure on himself and changes his kick in pressure situations, he won���t have the success he should have.��� Gibbons may not be the only one attempting field goals this season. Freshman Matt Wile has a booming leg, and Ferrigno and Hoke say he may be used for longer field goals. ���I���d come in somewhere around 50 yards,��� Wile said. ���My longest one lately was 59, and in practice, I hit one off the crossbar from 55.��� But for now, Gibbons is the guy, and he has the reformed technique, and the mindset, to excel. ���I want to come out here, change my name around Michigan and do well for the 132nd team,��� Gibbons said. Punting On Michigan���s first punt of the year, long snapper Tom Pomarico sent a rocket back to Wile. It looked high and dangerous. But Wile jumped, snatched it out of mid-air and got off a relatively decent punt, 35 yards, saving at best a safety and at worst a mistake-caused touchdown. ���I was much more nervous for the first punt than the first kickoff,��� said the big-legged rookie, who pulls double-duty. ���But after I got the first one out of the way, I settled down.��� Wile, who punted through the first four games while sophomore Will Hagerup served a suspension for violating team rules, has done a serviceable job, averaging 41.1 yards per punt with a long of 51 and four of 14 punts placed inside the 20. In Hagerup���s absence, Wile has made just one mistake. Lined up along the back of the end zone against Eastern Michigan, Wile rushed his motions and sent off a beeline 37-yarder, which didn���t get enough hang time to allow the coverage team to get downfield. It was returned 15 yards, for a 22-yard net. Most assumed Wile was just filling in until Hagerup returned from suspension (the first game he can play is the Oct. 1 matchup with Minnesota). But the coaches, who have stressed that practice results determine playing time, have continuously stated that neither punter has won or lost the job, yet. ���Will has been inconsistent in practice, too��� Ferrigno said. ���It���s going to be a great competition when he comes back.��� As a freshman last year, Hagerup averaged 43.6 yards per kick, good for fourth in the Big Ten behind three talented seniors. Punt Return If the Wolverines don���t break a game-changer in the return game, no coach will bat an eye ��� as long as they don���t fumble it away, either. Ball security has been a major issue in the special teams department for the last several seasons, and Ferrigno October 2011��� ������ the wolverine��� 41

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