Michigan football searches for special-teams solutions
CHICAGO - Michigan knows it has some big holes to fill at key positions this fall after its best defensive lineman, two running backs and a standout cornerback all departed.
Nowhere, though, are there more questions than on special teams. The Wolverines must replace punter Zoltan Mesko, now with the New England Patriots, as well as kicker Jason Olesnavage.
How will they do so?
The topic elicited an audible “Guh,” from third-year Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez this week. He labeled the kicking situation his biggest concern entering the preseason.
“Check back with me in a week,” Rodriguez said.
At punter, the Wolverines expect to rely on true freshman Will Hagerup.
Hagerup will receive the first chance to win the punting position when preseason camp opens Monday. He’ll also get a chance to win the kickoff job. The only place Hagerup won’t compete, Rodriguez said, is at field-goal kicker.
“He did both in high school and we’ll give him a few reps to see what he can do,” Rodriguez said. “He’s got a very, very strong leg. He’s an outstanding athlete.”
Redshirt freshman Brendan Gibbons and walk-on redshirt freshman Seth Broekhuizen will get the first opportunities to compete for the kicker job, although Rodriguez said once school starts and freshman walk-ons arrive, there are other candidates.
Whoever the kicker is, he’ll have an experienced set-up team working with him. Tom Pomarico returns to be the long snapper for the second straight year and Rodriguez said safety Jared Van Slyke could be the holder.
One thing Rodriguez didn’t rule out was searching the student body for a kicker.
“It really depends on what happens in August and the returning kickers, the walk-ons we have coming back when school starts in August,” Rodriguez said. “If we’re still uncomfortable then, then we’ll have another tryout.”