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Posted on Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 5:54 a.m.

Freshman Matt Wile's strong camp has him inching toward Michigan football history

By Kyle Meinke


Freshman Matt Wile is competing to handle Michigan's place-kicking duties, right, and could be the starting punter, left, during incumbent Will Hagerup's four-game suspension.

Melanie Maxwell |

Matt Wile is so focused while kicking field goals, he often doesn't remember anything that happens between the snap and his follow-through.

Now, it just might be up to the baby-faced, 18-year-old freshman to help the Michigan football team forget its kicking nightmares.

Wile said he already hits consistently from within 50 yards, and his career long is 63. He made 19 of 24 field-goal attempts his final two years of high school. He is Michigan's highest-ranked kicking prospect since Garrett Rivas in 2003.

Physically, he's an upgrade over what the Wolverines fielded last year. But, as coach Brady Hoke likes to say, kicking on Main Street is different than kicking on State Street.


Matt Wile answers questions during the Michigan football team's media day on Sunday.

Angela J. Cesere |

Wile played for a small high school in San Diego, where attendance hovered around 500-600 for home games. Is he mentally prepared to kick in front of 113,000 people on Sept. 3 against Western Michigan?

"I could be," Wile said after a pause. "All I'm doing is getting ready for the season, and I'm going to compete for the job, and whatever happens, happens."

Hoke has been impressed with Wile's composure so far in camp, and said he'd "be very comfortable" starting a true freshman at kicker — or at punter, for that matter.

Sophomore Will Hagerup, the team's only true punter, is suspended for the first four games of the season due to a violation of team rules. Hoke said Wile is a candidate to handle those duties, as well as returning kicker Seth Broekhuizen, who filled in one game last year at punter.

Broekhuizen averaged only 28 yards per attempt. Wile, meantime, punted in high school, averaging about 36.2 yards as a senior and 40.2 as a junior. He was seen taking snaps with the first punting unit last week, and said he has been working on his snaps and drops.

Is it possible Wile could punt, kick field goals and kick off in his first game with a winged helmet?

"What you want is the best guys at each spot," special teams coach Dan Ferrigno said. "If it's him, it's him. We have no problem playing a freshman there."

Greg Dooley, a Michigan football historian who runs, said he believes no freshman of the modern era has ever kicked off, punted and kicked a field goal for Michigan in a season opener. Freshmen became eligible to play in 1972.

When Hagerup was suspended, did Wile have an "Oh, wow" moment where he realized what could be expected of him the first time he runs through the Big House tunnel?

"Um ... yeah," he said. "It is a lot to handle (doing all three jobs), but I did do all three during high school, so I'm trying to just look at it the same way.

"I'll do what I can, if they give me a shot."

He just might get it.

"This is a big stage, and he hasn't gone out on Main Street in front of 110,000 people yet," Hoke said. "But he's very consistent. He's one of those guys who really knows his technique and fundamentals and can do a good job of coaching himself."

Hoke would know better than most.

Wile hails from Francis T. Parker High School in San Diego, and his father, Peter Wile, served as an orthopedic surgeon for the San Diego State football team the past few seasons before retiring this year so he can fly to Michigan games on the weekends.

Peter Wile, by the way, went to Michigan medical school. So did Wile's grandfather. His great-grandfather taught at the school, and his great-great-grandfather attended it. It's safe to say Wile is a Michigan Man, through and through.

Hoke, meanwhile, spent the past two season coaching the Aztecs. Wile was a frequent visitor to practices and games, and got to know the coaching staff well. They heavily recruited Wile, as did Nebraska, Air Force and others.

When Hoke was hired at Michigan, the match became a perfect fit, and it didn't take long for Wile to commit.

Wile has even already kicked a field goal at Michigan Stadium — converting a 30-yarder as a 12-year-old while attending the Aztecs' game against the Wolverines in 2004.

His range has since improved — and it could continue to do so.

Ferrigno likes Wile's big leg, but gushes over his size and athleticism. Wile is 6-foot-2, 208 pounds, started at linebacker for his high school team last year, then moved to defensive end after an injury to a teammate.

He could have a high upside as he fills out physically and fine tunes his mechanics. Beyond his physical tools, though, he should inject some much-needed confidence into Michigan's kicking corps.

Last season's travails are well documented: The Wolverines made only 4 of 14 field goal attempts, last among 120 Division I teams, with Broekhuizen and Brendan Gibbons. Things became so harrowing, former coach Rich Rodriguez held open tryouts for kicker among the student body.

"I think our problems last year were confidence problems because, as I said earlier, all those kids are decent kickers, good kickers," Ferrigno said. "The thing you can't do is tear 'em down."

Broekhuizen likes what he's seen from Wile, but also from himself this year.

The Holland, Mich., native said he identified a mechanical flaw in which he was not following through with his leg directly toward the uprights. He's corrected that, and now is hitting more consistently than he did at any point last year.

"I just had a couple issues and I needed to work them out," he said. "I'm not going to put any numbers (of distance) on it, but I've been hitting consistently."

Wile is hitting, too, and he's done it in the Big House, where he's kicked field goals every day with the other kickers while the rest of team practices at the team's training facilities.

His kicking routine begins by taking a deep breath just before the snap, which he said lowers his heart rate. From there, he tunes out everything.

"I'm feeling more comfortable every day," he said. "I'm just trying to get as many reps as I can before the season, and trying to get mentally prepared. I'll get there, and I want to compete for the job.

"That's why I came here. If I get that chance right away, then it's all the better."

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.


Johnny Smith

Fri, Aug 19, 2011 : 8:58 p.m.

Is it true the Mike Martin is not looking that great? These guys seem to think so... <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

1st Down

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 11:34 p.m.

Its important to remember that Wile is just a freshman and will make mistakes. Fans want to think that he is a savior for the bad kicking game under RR... and the punter who is in constant disciplinary trouble...but Matt is just a Freshman so dont expect the world from him no matter how much potential he has.


Fri, Aug 19, 2011 : 12:40 a.m.

Well, you sure are right. And I really feel for the other kickers on the team who have not had the success they thought they would. They work hard and also deserve good things. But the thing that makes Wile so neat is his longstanding connection to UM through generations. The coaching is so much better than it had been too. (But remember, we had pretty shaky special teams at times through Carr's years--remember that whole thing with the running kick which eventually cost specials team coach team his job in around 2003 or 2004). But anything good now is just so magnified because of the most recent past. Go Blue.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 10:47 p.m.

Kicking is dumb; 3 points are dead. Unless when you kick, You switch to The Spread. I want Michigan to win all their games this year, but our hopes are already ruined. Wrong offense. Wrong AD. Wrong scoreboard. They should rebuild Snyder's Party Store on the corner of Stadium &amp; Main and allow you into the stadium only if: 1) You are carrying 2 cardboard cases of Altes, and 2) Your head coach runs the triple option (aka The Glorious Spread).

Terry Star21

Fri, Aug 19, 2011 : 2:15 a.m.

Our friend Theo will get it back, once the season starts - he is too big of a Michigan Football that UofMbeWorser guy from osu just showed up on another post - we need Theo to put that guy in his place !


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 11:32 p.m.

He's baaaaaaaack. Where ya been, Theo? We missed you! Ya big lug! :-)


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 8:53 p.m.

I'm getting so darn excited about this upcoming season that I think I'm gonna, well I better not say. BluTP where are you and I miss your input. Even though I'm thrilled about the coming season Im also not naive. If we win 8 games and beat one of the 3 teams, MS, Nebraska or ohio state I'll be satisfied.

Terry Star21

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 10:11 p.m.

Hailmary.....sparty and bucky going down this year !


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 7:05 p.m.

Comment after comment from the players and the coaches just show how the leadership of this team is light years ahead of what it was for the last 3 years (and back to normal standards for long-time Michigan fans). While hardly any team personnel will come right out and criticize the former coaches by name, it is amazing how the comments keep coming out. Ferrigno's comments are telling, don't you think? Almost like a bad nightmare, except it wasn't. And remember that comment about how Vince Lombardi couldn't coach this defense last year? Well, Mattison and Hoke's response to that is, &quot;if we don't win the B10, then we've failed as coaches&quot; or something like that. Love Wile and his attitude.

Terry Star21

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 6:55 p.m.

Impressive written article, and a great insight to Matt Wile's background - we love this ! &quot;When Hagerup was suspended, did Wile have an &quot;Oh, wow&quot; moment where he realized what could be expected of him...&quot; ? &quot;Um ... yeah,&quot; he said. You got to love this kids honesty, think Hoke's attitude isn't rubbing off on him - inspiration, honesty and confidence ! A fifth generation Michigan man - too good. And he kicked a 30yard field goal in Michigan Stadium as a 12 year old ? Geez - @ 12 he could been our kicker last year ! As we always knew, this pretty much sums up the last three seasons of our coaching; &quot;I think our problems last year were confidence problems because, as I said earlier, all those kids are decent kickers, good kickers,&quot; Ferrigno said. &quot;The thing you can't do is tear 'em down.&quot; Thank goodness it's a new era and a great time to be a Wolverine Football Faithful. scoreboards are big enough to keep Wile's FG's in the stadium !

Megan Greene

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 5:22 p.m.

An improved kicking game will mean one or possibly two additional wins for UofM this year. Many national sports analysts pick us to go 6 and 6. With the kicking game improved and a much improved defense you could easily change that to 9 and 3, not too bad for a first year coach. Beyond that, Michigan fans, is just wishful thinking.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 4:53 p.m.

IMO, this quote right here: &quot;I think our problems last year were confidence problems because, as I said earlier, all those kids are decent kickers, good kickers,&quot; Ferrigno said. &quot;The thing you can't do is tear 'em down.&quot; Says all you need to know about the prior regime. And not just about the kicking game either. RichRod's motivation through public humiliation technique just doesn't work, IME. It certainly didn't work here at Michigan that's for sure. I won't be terribly surprised if you see one of the other guys, Brendan or Seth, show up big time for us in the future, either as a KO specialist or a sub. As a young player, you need a coach, a leader, who believes in you and has your back in public, even if he takes you out behind the woodshed in private. How many players have we lost as a result? How many will we still lose, players who's confidence is so shot they may not recover in time? Fortunately, that is all behind us and the new leadership appears to understand what it takes to not only coach but to lead a team. Can't wait for the season to begin. In Hoke We Trust.


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 4:29 p.m.

You are right on! Well said. Leaders need to praise in public and correct in private. Michigan men know what it takes... it comes from Bo. Great coaches at Michigan are great for more than scoreboard results, as their players are successful in life. Bo, Gary Moeller, and Coach Carr were head coaches who impacted lives beyond the field. I have a good friend I met this year who is an App. State alumnus and fan, he attended the game in Ann Arbor when they beat us. Anyway, his second favorite team is the Wolverines because of the class and sportsmanship shown after the game. Coach Carr's so-called worst moment was actually legendary from a sportsmanship standpoint. Coach Carr congratulated the App. State coach and said some meaningful words as well. That's the coaches I admire!!! That's a true leader. We won many games because players loved their coaches and didn't want to disappoint them. RR was the opposite of a everything our team stands for...we were about to turn the corner...every game is important(when asked about our greatest rivalry game). I'm done with the former Coach, he can go clean up his unethical life; stay away from AA, and for that matter don't even show up anywhere near Toledo! Shall I go there!


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 4:40 p.m.

&quot;I think our problems last year were confidence problems because, as I said earlier, all those kids are decent kickers, good kickers,&quot; Ferrigno said. &quot;The thing you can't do is tear 'em down.&quot; No comment needed ... that says it all.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 7:46 p.m.

Oh, sure ... compete for the position and who comes out on top plays. No question about that. I was simply wondering what goes through the mind of a players when their star fades like that. That's all.

Terry Star21

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 7:09 p.m.

Good point Mission...and Don, I hear you - I would love to see any Michigan player (Gib &amp; Broek) come back and make it. But the thing is, and it's sometimes sad is - we have to play the best, concentrate on the best and move forward (if this indeed is the right guy). I love the talk, but remember all the earlier stories about Gib ? Different era though now.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 5 p.m.

You know, I was thinking about something along these lines earlier. Broekhuizen and Gibbons are still on the team. What must it be like for a young man to be cast aside by the coaches, the fans and the press? If Wile becomes the kicking stud, then good for him. But there's a spot in my heart that would *love* to see Gibbons and Broekhuizen come back and regain their confidence and form.

Wally the Wolverine

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 4:21 p.m.

The only regular kicking game I want to see is kickoffs. If we have to rely on a lot of punts and field goals, it probably means we aren't scoring enough TDs.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 10:26 p.m.

Ah ... implied in that is that the QB has other natural abilities to complete passes. Yea, they wouldn't be in the NFL if they couldn't do that. So if you match a good QB such as Favre with the &quot;no INT&quot; ability then I agree ... unstoppable. My counter-argument could be that against a good defense it's just as likely the passes would go incomplete and the need to either punt or kick a FG comes up. Where's our brew? I can't continue without a cold frothy glass of something ...

David Vande Bunte

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 9:58 p.m.

Give me the QB that doesn't throw any INTs. I will always take keeping the ball over scoring 3 points or jockeying for field position. This is just a practical matter. If you are unable to throw an INT at all, you can throw with impunity. Ever use that particular Madden Card or Pennant in the EA Football games? If you can't throw an INT, you are practically unstoppable. Think how many more yards/TDs/SB Rings Brett Favre would have if could have slung the ball without the INTs...OY VEH!


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 7:49 p.m.

That's been one of my favorite sports-conversations-over-a-beer ... what would be worth more to a professional team: a consistent 50+ yard FG kicker; someone who can consistently boom 60+ yard punts; or a QB who never throws an interception?

David Vande Bunte

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

Having a consistent 40 yard FG kicker shouldn't be a dream though. Heck, there are very few NFL kickers that are consistently good beyond 50, we just think it's a lot easier to make them regularly because we have been watching Jason Hanson do it for 20 years. Football fans in the state of Michigan have a jaded perspective on the relative difficulty level of kicking a 50+ yarder because we have watched one of the all-time greatest long distance kickers in NFL history do it for so long, making it look easy.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

Yeah, I know what you're saying ... I'd like to see 100% PAT, 0 for 0 on FG and no punting. But of course that's not reality. Personally I think having a strong punter is an asset because there'll be those time when a first down just doesn't happen. And until our defense strengthens, having a good punter will take at least *some* pressure off the defense after the kick. Having a punter who can boom it *and* pooch it is a big bonus. :-) As for FG ... having a consistent 50+ yard range kicker is a dream that's not going to happen any time soon. I guess I'd be pretty happy if we had a FG kicker who could put up at least 3 when/if the red zone offense doesn't quite work.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 3:41 p.m.

The Former Coach was/is a terrible motivator. He comments about the kicking game last season were completely counter-productive and infantile (at one point he said they might stop the bus on the way to Happy Valley to stop and pick up a kicker). Hoke, on the other hand, seems to have this important aspect of coaching well handled. I'm stoked for the season to start to see if he can translate his workmanlike Michigan Man coaching and recuiting methods into consistent play, excellent fundamentals, improvement through the course of the season, and wins. Go Blue!

David Vande Bunte

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 3:10 p.m.

&quot;The Holland, Mich., native said he identified a mechanical flaw in which he was not following through with his leg directly toward the uprights. He's corrected that, and now is hitting more consistently than he did at any point last year.&quot; This is yet another reason why RichRod needed to go. Why wasn't the mechanical flaw detected by RichRod's Special Teams coach, whose job it is to notice and correct problems like that? Maybe if he had been doing his job, Michigan wouldn't have gone 4-14 on FGs. Poor coaching begets poor playing.


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

I agree! RR didn't want to coach...he wanted to delegate so he could wave his magic wand with the spread. A real head coach has to recognize and concern themselves with all areas, and help assistants by noticing mechanical flaws. Instilling confidence instead of slapping the kickers with an open campus competition is what would have helped last year. RR was quick to point the finger at others instead of accepting responsibility; just like the winged helmet thing. A real coach gets to bottom of things to help players get better, and it transforms to the teams attitude. I was at the bowl game in Jacksonville, and I have never seen a Michigan team just go through the motions; player acted as if they wanted to get the game over with. RR was about himself, and could care less about a player other than being an X or an O.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 4:46 p.m.

DVB All you have to know about our ST last year is that Tony Gibson was the coach. If there was one person that I think contributed to RichRod's failure (besides himself of course) it would be Gibson. He presided over the two worst areas of the team, the Secondary and ST. How that guy got another job is beyond me.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

Oh ya, can you dig it? This new Wolverine will be just fine, will he have some jitters at first, he wouldn't be human if he didn't. Kickers are often scoffed at especially if they come in the last few seconds and win a game for the opposing team My personal belief is that without a good kicker you are going to lose a couple of games that you would otherwise win with a good kicker. Anybody remember that Texas vs Michigan Rose Bowl game?

Terry Star21

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 7:02 p.m.

Yes....Remember before three years ago, Michigan was great at preparing these 18 year olds for the Big House and the Bowl's - I'd like to believe that has returned...Hoke is bringing the entire package !


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 2:10 p.m.

Sure hope for team this kid works out. As for past RR was badly lacking as a coach/recruiter in this area and it added greatly to his firing. Go Blue.......................

1st Down

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 11:37 p.m.

Scott...aka concern troll... Hagerup has shown to be nothing more than a head case to this point.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 2:20 p.m.

Hagerup is a phenomenal recruit for punting and Gibbons was a bust. Not exactly a dearth of talent given the sample size....

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

The return of the kicking game! Great post, 81wolverine. Agree entirely! Good Night and Good Luck


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : noon

I'd be surprised if Wile is not our kicker come opening day. With what we saw last year, he would have to be an improvement. But, if he can kick in front of the big crowds successfully, I see Wile as being a 4 year starter with the potential to set Michigan scoring records (kicking). It's also great to see a player with such a long Michigan tradition in his family.

Terry Star21

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 6:59 p.m.

I'd like to agree with you...I really think the new (Hoke) attitude and confidence in this kid will make all the difference.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 11:50 a.m.

Great article I took some video of Matt kicking he has a strong leg check it out ! <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

Thanks everyone GO BLUE!