The Wolverine

February 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 34 of 75

FEBRUARY 2019 THE WOLVERINE 35 StatuS Of SchOlarShip playerS GRADUATED: None ELIGIBILITY REMAINING (YEARS): LS Camaron Cheeseman (2) K Quinn Nordin (2) K Jake Moody (3) P Brad Robbins (3) MVP REDSHIRT SOPHOMORE PUNTER WILL HART True freshman kicker Jake Moody was an ex- tremely close second here and has a strong case for No. 1, but Hart was truly a difference maker at punter this year … and he came out of nowhere to do it. Hart spent the offseason perfecting his craft, and when scholarship punter Brad Robbins went down with a back injury that ended his season, the pres- sure was on. Hart not only became one of the team's most pleasant surprises, but he also earned the Eddleman-Fields Big Ten Punter of the Year Award and U-M's Specialist of the Year honor after averaging 47 yards per punt and pinning 15 kicks inside the 20. Hart also had 19 punts travel 50 yards or more and earned consensus first-team All-Big Ten hon- ors, Sports Illustrated second-team All-America accolades and was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award honoring the nation's top punter. OVERALL GRADE Hart was an obvious choice for MVP, but freshman Moody wasn't far behind. Stepping in for a struggling and possibly banged-up Quinn Nordin, Moody set Michigan records for single-game kick scoring (19 points) and most made field goals (six) in a 31-20 win over Indiana Nov. 17. That earned him Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors; he'd later earn Michigan's first-ever Special Teams Rookie of the Year award after making 10 of 11 field goals, his only miss coming from 50-plus yards in the Peach Bowl. Moody also put 43 of his 89 kicks through the end zone for touchbacks, and his impressive hang time played a factor in the Wolverines' excellent kick coverage, which finished 19th nationally by allow- ing just 18.07 yards per return. Sophomore Donovan Peoples-Jones earned third-team all-conference honors as a specialist after averaging 10 yards per punt return, including one for touchdown in a blowout of Nebraska. U-M could have gotten more from its kick return game, though sophomore Ambry Thomas did return a kickoff for a touchdown at Notre Dame. NUMBERS TO KNOW Redshirt sophomore Will Hart strug- gled mightily as Michigan's punter through the first three games of 2017 (37.6 yards per punt on 13 attempts), be- fore getting benched for then-freshman Brad Robbins. Hart responded nicely, however, to turn into one of the best punters in the country this past year. He averaged 47.0 yards on 43 boots, which would have been good for the fourth-best mark in the nation if he had enough attempts to qualify (punters needed to average 3.6 punts per their team's games played, and Hart averaged 3.3). Hart also set U-M records for season average (breaking Will Hagerup's 45.03 mark from 2012) and single-game punt- ing clip (59.3 against Nebraska). Special teamS PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN B+ 2019 PLAYER TO WATCH JAKE MOODY He took over the kicking duties from redshirt sophomore Quinn Nordin for the final three af- fairs of 2018 and went on to make 10 of his 11 tries, including a long of 48. After being thrust into the role against Indiana — when he reportedly was told he would start only minutes before game time — he set the record for most field goals in a Big Ten game (six) in his first opportunity, so with more time to prepare and some college experience under his belt, it'll be interesting to see what Moody has in store for an encore in 2019. Will Hart

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