You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Aug 1, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

Freshman Matt Wile may be answer for Michigan football team's wobbly kicking game

By Kyle Meinke

CHICAGO — First-year Michigan coach Brady Hoke has no qualms with playing true freshmen if they give him the best chance to win football games.

That just might be the case at kicker this season.

Matt Wile is ranked the No. 4 kicker in the country among incoming freshmen, and could help shore up the Wolverines’ woeful unit, which finished 120th out of — yep, you guessed it — 120 teams last year.


Brendan Gibbons was 1-of-5 kicking field goals as a freshman and went 13-of-14 kicking PATs.

File photo

Would Hoke have any reservations playing the true freshman for Michigan’s season opener Sept. 3 against Western Michigan?

“No, not really,” he said. “You know what? He’ll grow up fast, and that’s part of it. From what I know about Matt, and obviously we know him pretty well, he’s got some sand to him, and that’s good.”

Kicker was considered one of the weakest positions on the roster at the end of last season — and then 2011 prospect Matt Goudis decommitted after Michigan fired Rich Rodriguez.

It didn’t take long for Hoke to fill the spot, though, and he did so with something of a familiar face.

Wile is from San Diego, and Hoke coached the past two seasons at San Diego State. Wile’s father was a doctor for the Aztecs and attended Michigan.

Wile, who will be a fifth-generation Michigan student, made nine of 11 field-goal attempts with a long of 48 yards as a junior, and was 10-of-13 with a long of 49 yards as a senior at Francis W. Parker in San Diego.

This certainly is a logical fit for the kid with a big leg, but coaches are wont to preserve the psyche of their kickers. A few bad games have a way of affecting long-term performance with some young kickers.


The Big Ten football media days are behind us and the first day of fall practice is just around the corner. Seems like an ideal time to host a live chat.

Come back to at noon Friday to discuss the upcoming Michigan football season with beat writer Kyle Meinke.

Hoke knows this.

“Kicking on State Street’s different than kicking on Main Street, and we got to make sure … how (players are) going to perform when there’s 110,000, 113,000 people,” he said. “There’s a psychology to all of it.”

Still, Wile will at least be given a shot to earn the kicking duties because of the lack of depth at that position.

The Wolverines return both of last year’s starters — but that isn’t necessarily a plus when the pair made just four of 14 field-goal attempts, last in Division I.

Sophomore Seth Broekhuizen was the team’s leader, and was 3-of-9. Sophomore Brendan Gibbons was 1-of-5.

Things became so harrowing, Rodriguez was forced to go for it on fourth down more than he would have liked — even with his team within reasonable field-goal range — and even staged an open tryout to students in the middle of the season.

Gibbons was a well-respected recruit coming out of high school. Scout ranked him the No. 11 kicker in the country, and he was 8-for-8 with a long of 51 yards as a high school senior.

Things snowballed for Gibbons, though, and for Broekhuizen, a walk-on from Holland.

Michigan now must try to restore confidence in its kicking game.

“You have to,” Hoke said. “I was talking to (Nebraska coach) Bo Pelini, and he had to build a confidence in his defense. And we have to do that too (with the kicking game).

“The only way you build that confidence is you make the kicks. At the end of the day, that’s where it comes through.”

Who gets the first shot at making those kicks?

Fall camp starts Aug. 8.

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


Blu n Tpa

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 4:56 p.m.

Wally if you are the DC do you want the ball spotted on your 15 yard line or the other teams' 15? And if you are the Michigan's OC, same question. Special teams can make that kind of a difference. Maybe not as drastic as that example but given the advantage of better special teams play over the course of a game, and the season, it can lead to one, maybe two more wins. Special teams is the window to how a team is coached. Go Blue! TiM

Wally the Wolverine

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 4:21 p.m.

The kicking game means very little until both the offense and defense prove they can play consistently against the better teams in the league. Good Day and Good Riddence

Chad Williams

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 3:06 p.m.

The kid could make every kick in practice but its not the same as kicking in the game. Until i see the kid make a FG in a GAME then how can we actually say he is the guy. He might miss his first kick from 37 yards out. Of course the best kicker in practice will get more of the nod but Gibbons was also a freshman kicker so maybe he learned a lot from year one til this year and he could be the guy. Just because Wile is a fifth generation MIchigan guy doesnt mean he will automatically make FGs. He will eventually like every player on that team have to earn a spot and work hard to keep it.

Blu n Tpa

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

Same as at your stadium in CBus is persume, CW.

Blu n Tpa

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 1 p.m.

God of the Sea I agree with you about the importance of special teams. I consider them to be a "window" into how well a team is being coached overall. Special teams can dictate field position, both offensively and defensively, that give the team an advantage. Besides the obvious getting 3 points for a FG, it rewards the offense for getting into the other teams side of the field and by making it you get to kick off deep, and with good special team's coverage units, make the other guys have to go a long ways vs Michigan's "D". Now I don't expect perfect ST's play right out of the gate, but I do want to see them get better throughout the season. Having a ST coach is huge and unfortunately, it fall's to him to correct the worst special teams unit in college football. Get it done and "no excuses". TiM Go Blue!

Mr. Uzelac

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 3:14 p.m.

Let's not forget the subtle statement in this article that young Wile is a FIFTH GENERATION MICHIGAN STUDENT. Ya think he hasn't been exposed to The Sheikh, Rivas, even Remy Hamilton. I bet he already knows whose footsteps he's following in. I expect he is well prepared to come in and do the job The bad taste of the last 3 years are definitely gone. With this kind of breeding, Ole Ufer is definitely smiling down on us.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 2:36 p.m.

KIckers are strange. Sometimes they are great in high school and terrible in college, even though there is probably less difference going from level to level than at any other position. Wile certainly has a chance to come in and make a difference. Hopefully, he'll work out. The law of averages dictates that it's about time for a kicker to come in and perform at a high level.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 2:09 p.m.

I can't believe this is not one of the priorities for this team. Doesn't Ali Haji-Sheikh have a little brother, or son, or somebody he knows that can kick?


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

I think one of the biggest hires this staff made, and which seems to be often overlooked, is they hired a special teams coach. I think that will pay huge dividends in the coming seasons. Just look at VT. Every season they have one of, if not the best, special teams in the country. And all because the coach stresses how important they are, instead of just making them an afterthought. Anyway, hopefully Wile can come though for us. Sounds like he already has a good head on his shoulders.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 12:23 p.m.

I'd be VERY surprised if Wile was not our starter when the season begins. He might be the most significant freshman player coming in this year. Of course, we'll have to see how he kicks in front of 110,000+ fans, TV etc. But like @mick says, he's been kicking without a tee for a while now getting him ready for college football. Also, he's been using a professional kicking coach in San Diego for a few years. So, I'd say this kid is serious. Can't wait to see the field goals sailing through the uprights again!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 1:58 a.m.

Yet another example of how things are looking up for Hoke and for the Wolverines. This IS Michigan! Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 1:02 a.m.

mic52. . . good POINTs, 6 + the PAT always trumps 3 for the FG. . . GO BLUE!


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 12:47 a.m.

I hope we won't need a kicker who can kick a lot of field goals, I hope we will need a kicker who can kick a lot of PATs.

1st Down

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 12:20 a.m.

Accuracy is the single most important aspect to a college kicker's game. BTW Matt Goudis was committed for like 3 days, without having even visited AA. Word on the street was that he never intended to go to Michigan and only committed to up his exposure and other offers.


Mon, Aug 1, 2011 : 9:56 p.m.

Of all the Rodriguez Era Failure Mysteries, the kickers' problems were the most enigmatic. In this one case, it's pretty clear that RR tried his utmost to correct the problem, so that brings up "jinx" as another possibility. It's quite obvious that Coach Hoke has the Football Success Ju-Ju we've been looking for, so we can hope the jinx went wherever the last coach went after he... switched careers. Welcome Matt Wile, may you take full advantage of this opportunity to become one of the great kickers at Michigan. (I remember when we had those?!)


Mon, Aug 1, 2011 : 9:39 p.m.

As I've mentioned in comments before, Wile has been practicing without a tee for a couple of years now in anticipation of kicking in college. many high school kickers don't pan out in college because of this very reason. Wile is smart enough to have thought of that ahead of time. This should bode well for him. And the coaching staff being better this year should also help in that part of the game. I look for huge improvement in this area this year. Remember that Epstein and Rivas were both very good Freshman Kickers in their careers.

Terry Star21

Mon, Aug 1, 2011 : 11:30 p.m.

Very good point about the tee.....interesting !

Terry Star21

Mon, Aug 1, 2011 : 7:21 p.m.

The difference will be, Wile most certainly will have a great coaching staff here that instills encouragement, confidence and support in their athletes. Last year the coaching staff was considering putting an ad in the newspaper for a kicker, interviewed a 'parking-lot' guy to kick and gave three students a tryout. How did that make the current kickers feel, you know the ones that the coaching staff claimed made all their field goals in practice, yet missed them in the games ? Watch for a big improvement in field goal kicking this year - among other things.'s the kick, it's up.....and it's GOOOOOOD..Michigan wins, Michigan wins.

Blu n Tpa

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 12:46 p.m.

eb, so what you're saying is that the kicking game was going to be a "lose-lose" situation no matter what the previous coach did in-season. Maybe, and I'm just spitballin' here, maybe he should have paid more attention to that aspect of the team going INTO the season. I guess just naming one of his assistants as the "special teams' coach" really didn't work out like he wanted. Sorta like going into CBus without a punter ready to play because you left the number one guy back in AA. (Turns out he had an all state punter sitting on the bench. Not sure why he wasn't ready to go since he had been there all year. As far as telling the players to "man up", that is part of the coach's job description, it's the title role: coaching. TiM Go Blue!


Mon, Aug 1, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

Did you want them to just keep having the same two bad kickers kicking and not try to find a kicker on campus? Blaming the coaching staff for trying to find in-season improvement the only way they could is not a bad move. As far as instilling confidence: Givesup and Brokefootzen should suck up the competition and actually try to be better kickers. It's not like any of those try outs ever made it to the field. They, however, didn't motivate two lousy kickers from sucking. I understand Rodriguez was in a hard place -- if he endorsed one of those stinkers it would have been even more criticism about him not trying. Let last season and the last coach go. It's pretty easy to make any coach culpable for every mistake if you find it the easiest thing for yourself to do. How about telling the players to man up a bit more.


Mon, Aug 1, 2011 : 7:48 p.m.

Everything will be better. Just you wait. From the way they practice, to the discipline, to the coaches demeanor, to the attitude overall. There is now a plan, not excuses. Go blue.


Mon, Aug 1, 2011 : 7:21 p.m.

With our team, "rebuilding" I would think it's possible we'll be in some close games in 2011, without a decent kicking game well, you do the math.

Blu n Tpa

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 12:35 p.m.

HM I think Coach Hoke has downplayed the rebuilding mantra and expects Michigan to be ready to play THIS YEAR. Maybe you didn't get the memo. A good kicking game would be effective in close games and a great kicking game could prevent some games from being close. Special team's play will improve, maybe the most of all three units. I could live with that. TiM Go Blue!