Coaching change helps kicker Brendan Gibbons become one of Michigan's most improved players
Who is the most improved player on the Michigan football team?
It just might be place-kicker Brendan Gibbons.
The sophomore had a rough freshman season, when he was 1-of-5 on field goals before losing his job to another freshman, Seth Broekhuizen. Together, they combined to go an NCAA-worst 4-of-14.
Then, there was a coaching change.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
"Kids change a little bit," coach Brady Hoke said. "Their mind-set changes a little bit. Sometimes, the coaching changes are good for some and not as good for others.”
It's been excellent for Gibbons, a West Palm Beach, Fla., native who was Scout's 11th-ranked kicker coming out of high school and an Army All-American. He was 16-of-21 in high school before his freshman season at Michigan (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten).
Hoke said the coaching staff talked to Gibbons when they arrived in Ann Arbor about putting last season behind him. By all accounts, he has.
Hoke said there wasn't a specific turning point, but Gibbons' consistency during spring and fall workouts gave him confidence the sophomore would produce. It also helped Gibbons hold off a hard charge by elite true freshman Matt Wile, who competed for the job in camp.
"I've never doubted the kid," Hoke said. "I know nothing about place-kicking. I couldn't teach it. I know what to look for, maybe, if I watch a guy, just like with punters. But, I've been real comfortable with how he's handled the different situations we've put him in, how he's gone out and worked every day.
"There has been competition, but he's shown us, on a daily basis, that he's got a good mind-set, and he's got a good leg."
The biggest remaining uncertainty regarding Gibbons heading into Saturday's game at Iowa (Noon, ESPN) is his range. Hoke said in August the sophomore was the more accurate kicker in practices, but that Wile had a stronger leg and would be the guy from 43 yards or longer.
That arrangement no longer is the case, as Gibbons has excelled this year and earned all the kicking duties. However, he still has not converted a field-goal attempt of longer than 38 yards, and has missed his only attempt of more than 40 yards.
His long in high school was 52 yards.