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 Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan football coach Brady Hoke likes Jeremy Gallon as a punt returner, Blake Countess as a possible backup

By Nick Baumgardner


Michigan's Jeremy Gallon returns a kickoff during a win at Northwestern last season.

Melanie Maxwell |

Michigan football coach Brady Hoke will likely head into the 2012 season with a comfortable first-string punt returner in junior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon.

But in case of emergency, Hoke's preferred backup return man comes as a bit of a surprise.

Sophomore cornerback Blake Countess.

"Punt-wise, it's Gallon," Hoke said Thursday. "But the next one would be Countess. He's a guy who's very confident in what he does back there.

"I think, also, Countess is a guy (we've looked at) in kick return some."

Gallon was Michigan's undisputed punt returner a year ago, returning 19 kicks for 192 yards, holding an average of 10.1 yards per return and a long of 32 yards.


Blake Countess

Countess, however, did not see any action as a punt returner a year ago.

The sophomore from Owings Mills, Md., was one of the team's most successful rookies last season, starting 11 games at corner and making 44 tackles in the process.

He never returned a kick, but was spotted shagging punts regularly during media-watched practices in 2011.

As for the kick return game, Hoke pointed toward sophomore running back Thomas Rawls and redshirt freshman running back Justice Hayes as two players he would like to see take ownership of the role.

Michigan will have to replace its main kick returner from a year ago in departed senior Martavious Odoms. Senior running back Vincent Smith also has experience returning kicks.

Of all specialty positions, perhaps the most hotly-contested position battle going into the close of spring practice is the punter spot.

Hoke said sophomore Matt Wile and junior Will Hagerup are neck and neck at the moment.

"One day one is consistent, then the next day he's not and the other guy is," Hoke said of Wile and Hagerup. "We're going to do some stuff on Saturday (during the spring game) to really put some heat on them and see how they handle that part of it.

"We've been doing that some, but in the (spring game) environment, we can get a couple more speed guys out there and it'll be interesting to see."

Wile averaged 41.6 yards per punt in 17 tries a year ago, while Hagerup averaged 36 yards per kick in 29 punts.

As far as the placekicking game is concerned, Hoke said the job is currently junior Brendan Gibbons' to lose once again.

Gibbons bounced back from a rough 2010 season by going 13-for-17 in 2011, including the game-winning kick in January's Sugar Bowl victory.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.



Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

We ought to build altars and start sacrificing herd animals right now: the team is still too thinnnn in spots and will be vulnerable to loss due to injury. Of course, that's one reason why head coaches make the big bucks: college teams are always in the process of building depth in the face of yearly turnover. Whatever: Go Blue! Hail to the Victors!


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 4:23 p.m.

Sorry I've been away awhile. Been traveling the country with all my lady friends spying on our rivals spring camps. How about COACH Al returns punts himself. He'd BULLdoze em!!! MEEEEEEEEEEEEANchigan football is back in the hunt!! As BULLDOZER AL returns that punt!!!

David LaFleur

Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

I think Gallon will be good at everything he does this year he really came around last year and we need him to step up even further this year.


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

Jeremy Gallon showed some potential last season as punt returner. I recall he ran for a TD in a kick off return but there was holding in the backfield and the effort was negated. As for the current kick return line up, Rawls and Hayes seem very good, then the arrival of Mr Norfleet could have great potential.

Steve McQueen

Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 11:08 a.m.

Gallon is an excellent football player. Id be a bit nervous seeing the number 1 corner back there in Countess... perhaps only in spot duty ala Woodson...but never full time...he is too valuable in the secondary to risk injury. Jeremy Gallon may be the unsung hero of the squad, he contributes on so many levels to the offense.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 2:26 a.m.

Hey, hugs all around for Gallon to have a great season!

Steve McQueen

Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

awww that is cute burton... Gallon came up huggin... last year in the end zone after the ND TD.. :)


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.

i like Gallon as PR but there were a few punts last year he failed to field that cost UM major field position. just saying i hope he can improve that part of his game.


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

*huge* - Burton163 are u talking about the coaches?


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.



Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

Agreed. Gallon came up hug in some tough games last year.