Punting duties in good hands with Michigan football recruit Will Hagerup
There’s a good chance Michigan will start at least one true freshman when it opens the 2010 football season against UConn - punter Will Hagerup.
It’s a daunting task - Mesko, a four-year starter, averaged a school-record 44.5 yards per punt this year - but one Hagerup is up for.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m nervous about it,” Hagerup said Saturday. “But I think in a good way. And once I get over that kind of first couple punts I think I’ll be more comfortable with it.
“I’m so excited and just I’m going to do everything I can to personally be successful and also be on a team that’s going to do some really good things.”
Ranked the No. 3 kicker in the country by ESPN.com, Hagerup said Mesko, his host on his official visit, was a big reason he verbally committed to Michigan over scholarship offers from Florida, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
“He’s a really good example for me because obviously he’s a punter and he’s pretty much where I would like to be,” Hagerup said. “I think it’s a pretty tall order to set just because he’s so successful.
“He’s really been successful, obviously on the field, but probably more so off the field. Just kind of seeing something that Michigan has produced in Zoltan made me see what I could maybe be in 4 or 5 years.”
Whitefish Bay coach Jim Tietjen said Hagerup, whose brother Chris punts for Indiana, is among the most dedicated players he’s ever coached.
Last year on Christmas Eve, Hagerup and his father spent part of the day punting on Whitefish Bay’s turf field, and often times this year Will used his lunch hour to work on technique.
“He gets after it that way,” Tietjen said. “He’s legitimately 6-(foot)-4, between 210, 215 (pounds). He’s a physical specimen. And he’s the second one in the line. He and his folks learned the drill with Chris, and then Will came along and is even farther along.”
Will said he gave up soccer and started kicking as a sophomore in high school after seeing his brother’s success. He became Whitefish Bay’s regular punter as a junior, and this year he earned all-state honors as a punter and all-conference honors as a tight end.
Next month, Hagerup wlll play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
“The coaches that came through and looked at him said that nobody in the country hits the ball like Will,” Tietjen said. “When Will hits it, it sounds like a cannon. Last time I heard something like that was Reggie Roby.”
Tietjen and Roby, the Big Ten’s career punting leader and a three-time Pro Bowler in the NFL, crossed paths one day nearly 3 decades ago when Tietjen, then the coach at Mukwonago (Wisc.) High, visited Iowa for a spring practice.
As Tietjen was standing near midfield talking to then-Iowa defensive line coach Dan McCarney, Roby launched a punt a few yards away.
“I thought someone fired a gun," Tietjen said. "And the next time I heard a noise like that was Will hitting one one day.
“Michigan’s getting a heck of a player.”
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.