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 20, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Struggling Michigan punter Will Hagerup attributes problems to 4-game suspension

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan junior punter Will Hagerup, center, believes his struggles last year were partly due to his four-game suspension.

Melanie Maxwell |

As a true freshman, Will Hagerup wasn't just good -- he put together the second-best punting season in Michigan football history. Big things were thought to be on the horizon for the kid with the golden leg.

But as a sophomore last year, he was suspended four games, led Michigan to a last-place finish in net punting in the Big Ten and averaged a scant 25 yards per attempt in the Sugar Bowl.

Now, coach Brady Hoke has declared there is an open competition for the starting job between Hagerup and sophomore Matt Wile -- a battle that, as of last week, Hagerup appears to be losing.

So, what is driving the curious case of Will Hagerup?

Hagerup, asked that very question, says it starts with that four-game suspension to begin last season.

"Missing the first four games was very disappointing for me," said Hagerup, who also was suspended for one game as a freshman. "I never could really get that consistency going. Never had that one game where I really got back into things. And I think that’s what's big in the nonconference games, is to get your step back a little bit.

"Missing that, for me, turned out to be a bigger deal than I thought it would be."

Hagerup declined to specify what precipitated his suspension, saying only that he "had some growing up to do." But he did say those four weeks were some of the toughest of his life.

On the field, his game fell apart.


Will Hagerup file photo

He returned in time for the start of the Big Ten season, but averaged just 36.0 yards per punt -- 7.6 yards off his freshman production. Just 3.4 percent of his punts traveled 50 yards, a season after 30.3 percent of them did.

Michigan averaged 36.6 yards per punt as a team, second worst in the Big Ten. Its 33.4 net yards per punt were last.

"I just never really got my step," Hagerup said. "I remember clearly my freshman year, I struggled a little in the nonconference. Then we had that Indiana game against my brother and I remember I hit three or four good punts and just felt comfortable with everything. Everything clicked for me after that.

"And I never really had that game last year."

Off the field, Hagerup was just as much a mess. He was embarrassed, feeling as though he let down not only his teammates, but his friends and family back home in Milwaukee.

"It took a lot to deal with that," he said. "I feel like I am kind of here to be a punter. Not here at Michigan, but I feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do in life. And obviously being on the sidelines, while my team is doing great, I want to be out there helping them."

Being lifted from the Sugar Bowl, after punts of 24 and 26 yards, is among the most humbling moments of his career.

"That whole week I just didn’t have my confidence up, sort of struggled in practice a lot and just didn’t get it done in the game," Hagerup said.

Wile, meantime, averaged 41.6 yards per punt last year while filling in for Hagerup during the suspension and in the Sugar Bowl. He proved not only capable of doing the job, but better at it than Hagerup.

Hoke, who is the team's punt coach, said last week that Hagerup is behind Wile in the battle for that spot, although looking better than he did early in camp. The junior has tried to pull out of his dive this offseason, but a broken foot offset some of the gains he felt he made during spring camp.

Hagerup, though, feels as though he's getting close to regaining his form. That starts with getting his life in order off the field -- and he thinks the suspension, although it rocked his game, could serve as the impetus for change.

"It was a good thing for me, in that I realized what was more important," he said. "It really caused me to re-evaluate everything and get back on the field and off the field stuff and start doing it all right."

Hagerup got help, too. He sought the advice of Greg Harden, Michigan's longtime director of athletic counseling who has been credited with helping former greats such as Tom Brady and Desmond Howard during their college careers.

"He's one of the most powerful figures I’ve worked with," Hagerup said.

He also went a more unconventional route, going straight to the top and consulting with athletic director Dave Brandon. Hagerup said they email regularly, and that Brandon has helped him right his life.

"It’s definitely a process, but I feel like I’m a different person than I was last year at this point," he said.

Hagerup knows he has lost his grip on the starter's spot he held for two years. He doesn't know yet whether it will be him or Wile who wins the job, but as his off-field life stabilizes, he's hopeful the big leg he once flashed will re-emerge.

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



Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 9:52 p.m.

The job is Will's to lose. Obviously his potential is through the roof. Based on his performance as a freshman, Wile or anyone else will have a hard time supplanting him IF he keeps his head on straight.

Steve McQueen

Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

Hagerup was also suspended the previous Ohio game, so he actually missed 5 games in a row. The Ohio suspension was for a different reason. I do know the reason for his 4 gamer, and Im not going to state it here. At this point, his performance vs. Wiley will be the deciding factor on who sees the field. IMO it will be Wiley, who is more consistent and has stayed out of issues.

Terry Star21

Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 10:35 p.m.

He did seem to have a lot of grass on his uniform, despite someone who rarely gets knocked to the turf when punting.

Terry Star21

Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

I don't believe Hagerup should have ever been allowed back on the team. Wile has proven he is a good student/athlete, has followed the Michigan rules - and soon enough will be leading Michigan in that department. An employee told me to 'take it to the bank' that Wile would be a starter before he even put on the M uniform. Good advice. Like the new rankings. Good day today for the Big Ten, apparently not so good for the SEC. MgoBlueForTiM.....Wyle can most likely play all 22 positions.


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 5:37 p.m.

Hutch said it best: "...You will fall down. It's how you get back up that counts."


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 7:01 p.m.

I was just thinking about that play.... It's in the past, though, thankfully.

Kyle Mattson

Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 4:28 p.m.

A number of comments regarding moderation have been removed, for questions regarding these processes please refer to our Community Guidelines where you can post questions here: or email us at

Blu n Tpa

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 1:37 a.m.

I don't mind any fan bringing something to the conversation but the level of shrill and bombast is about as bad as I have ever seen here. If you want to post something against Michigan bring your "A" game, not something my 12 year old daughter writes to her friends. If you have a problem with being deleted, well, welcome to the club. The article is about a student-athlete who ran into trouble with following team rules. Now if anyone out there is from a school that NEVER had that problem then please, this is your time to take center stage. Otherwise, glass houses. Besides 'Bama, how many teams in the SEC are playing nationally recognized football programs out of conference the first 4 weeks of the season? TiM Go Blue!

Terry Star21

Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 8:54 p.m.

Thank you Kyle.


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

Getting very tired of the trolls getting a pass on moderation and the regulars getting their posts deleted. And yes, I emailed the address above with my feedback.


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

When i graduated my father said "congratulations you have made the dean's list 8 straight semesters...................unfortunately it was the dean's academic list for only the last two." College is as much, or more, about growing up than academics or sports. Keep it up Will, don't pull a Tate.

Blue Marker

Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

In the voice of Nelson from The Simpson's: Ha Ha!

Barb's Mom

Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

Hagerup declined to specify what precipitated his suspension, saying only that he "had some growing up to do." It sounds like he still has some growing up to do. He did something wrong, got caught and punished and now it is because he was punished that he can't do what he is on the team to do. It in no one's fault but his.


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 9:45 p.m.

I think learning when to keep your mouth shut is a big part of growing up, so I wholeheartedly disagree with your post.


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

What do you need a Punter for? Michigan has Denard Robinson!

Blu n Tpa

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 : 1:23 a.m.

Because you don't bring any intellect to the discussion. For someone with a BS degree from LSU you don't answer replies to your "stats" and your numbers are frequently inaccurate. The biggest complaint is your claim to the conference over your school and team. That is just unthinkable to the typical fan on this web site. The "Bama" fans have a dog in this hunt and you have no standing what-so-ever! Is that clear enough of do I have to write "heee...heee..heee...!" like your usual post?


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 3:45 p.m.

I think the SEC in you user name violates policies here. If you ended every sentence with "GO BLUE", that might help. Roll Tide


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

The team, the team, the TEAM.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 11:40 a.m.

" I am kind of here to be a punter. Not here at Michigan, but I feel like that's what I'm supposed to do in life." dude your punter. well before your 30 years old (most likely) you'll be a former punter. Get a plan B in a hurry.


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 11:22 a.m.

Nice to know Hagerup has gotten advice and counsel and has gone to the top. He brought the 4 game suspension on himself last season. It appears to be in rear view mirror so I hope he realize his potential this coming season.


Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 10:39 a.m.

Best of luck to this young man. How you respond to adversity says a lot about your character. How you respond to success says more. Sounds like he has matured and now just needs to prove it to himself. His form will return and he'll find his step. Enjoy the competition while it's available. It sounds like it's already made him a better person and teammate. Go Blue!