The Wolverine

2022 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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112 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2022 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BEST FEET FORWARD Michigan Welcomes Its Experienced Specialists Back For One Last Ride BY ANTHONY BROOME [ S P E C I A L T E A M S ] M ichigan's special teams were a bit of a misadventure during the 2020 campaign but bounced back hugely during the team's Big Ten title run in 2021. Led by coordinator Jay Harbaugh, the Wolverines had what Football Outsiders ranked as the No. 1 special teams unit in the nation using the Fremeau Efficiency Index ratings, which combine kickoff return, kickoff, punt return, punt and field goal efficiency into one overall rating. Former Michigan kicker Brandon Kornblue knows the value of a top-notch special teams unit. The offense and defense get the majority of the attention more often than not, but taking a detail-oriented approach to the third phase will always pay dividends. The Kornblue Kicking owner has worked with U-M graduate specialists Jake Moody and Brad Robbins, and he spoke about the importance of taking care of business in that phase. "Special teams are one-third of the game," he said. "Any time you have an improved performance there, you're going to have improved performance in all aspects. Touchbacks on kickoffs help the defense get rest. Making your kicks gives the offense more confidence that they can do more with their playcalling. You find yourself in a cycle where everything helps something else. "That was a key piece of the puzzle last year. They had the best guys, too, includ- ing the consensus top kicker in the country [in Moody] and then Robbins as the punter. [Long snapper William] Wagner did well stepping up in a big way [the past two seasons]. They had great tools last year that helped, and amazingly, they are all back this season." The biggest development for U-M's special teams efforts was the return of Moody and Robbins for fifth and sixth seasons, respectively. Moody in particular was con- sidered a surprise after grabbing the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker in 2021 and being named a consensus All-American. Moody's decision was spearheaded by wanting one more taste of what the Michi- gan experience has to offer, which is a decision his mentor supported. "That was unexpected," Kornblue said. "I thought that Robbins and Wagner would come back. But after winning the Groza Award, I don't think anybody ex- pected Moody to come back. "But at the same time, I completely understand why. I tell guys all the time who are anxious and in a rush to move on to the next level there's absolutely nothing like the college experience, especially at a place like Michigan or a school that has that kind of tradition." The Wolverines have always placed a heavy emphasis on special teams under Jim and Jay Harbaugh. Where most schools might throw a walk-on out to handle their kicking and holding duties, Michigan has its key players on scholarship. Harbaugh even awarded Wagner with a scholarship this past winter, rewarding all mechanical parts of the snap-hold-kick process. "There's no question that there is a difference in their philosophy," Kornblue said. "There's a correlation between overall production and winning traditions of YEAR-BY-YEAR KICKING LEADERS Punting Year Player Att. Avg. Long 2012 Will Hagerup 33 45.0 62 2013 Matt Wile 61 40.6 69 2014 Will Hagerup 53 42.9 63 2015 Blake O'Neill 53 41.3 80 2016 Kenny Allen 54 43.3 67 2017 Brad Robbins 64 40.4 58 2018 Will Hart 43 47.0 65 2019 Will Hart 51 44.2 61 2020 Brad Robbins 23 45.3 66 2021 Brad Robbins 45 46.3 65 Field Goals Year Player Att. Made Long 2012 Brendan Gibbons 18 16 52 2013 Brendan Gibbons 20 15 47 2014 Matt Wile 21 15 48 2015 Kenny Allen 22 18 47 2016 Kenny Allen 23 19 51 2017 Quinn Nordin 24 19 55 2018 Quinn Nordin 16 11 50 2019 Quinn Nordin 13 10 57 2020 Quinn Nordin 5 2 46 2021 Jake Moody 25 23 52 Graduate kicker Jake Moody, a consensus All-Ameri- can in 2021, became Michigan's first winner of the Lou Groza Award as the nation's best kicker. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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