The Michigan Wolverines enter 2009 with arguably the best punter in the Big Ten conference, Zoltan Mesko. Here are Zoltan's 2009 numbers:
2008: 81 punts 42.9 yard average
2007: 71 punts 41.1 yard average
2006: 50 punts 40.6 yard average
Zoltan, Destroyer of Galaxies, appears to be improving every year, and might very well finish his senior year at Michigan as a Big Ten punting leader and a national punting leader once again.
Placekicking and kickoff duty for Michigan is another question. One of the more unsung, yet consistent aspects of Michigan football the last two years has been, believe it or not, PAT/FG kicking.
K.C. Lopata sort of came out of nowhere in 2007 to assume PK duties for the Wolverines. His handiwork never really received much notice by the press. But Lopata was consistent. He demonstrated considerable improvement in his duties between 2007 and 2008.
Career Kicking Stats
Year Game FGM FGA Pct XPM XPA Pct Pts
2007 8 11 12 91.7 28 28 100.0 61
2008 12 10 15 66.7 27 29 93.1 57
Career 20 21 27 77.8 55 57 96.5 118
100% on PATs and 11 of 12 on FGs. Yes, one of the missed FGs cost UM the opportunity to tie Toledo and go into overtime last year. But that final 10-13 loss result can hardly be pinned on Lopata's missed FG alone. The above stats are respectable numbers for a placekicker. Lopata will be missed.
As for 2009, Bryan Wright returns for his senior year at PK for Michigan this fall.
Rich Rodriguez also successfully earned the commitment of Brendan Gibbons of West Palm Beach, Florida, one of the nation's better kickers. Gibbons is 6-0, 210lbs. He is a 3-star and 11th ranked kicker in the country according to Scout.com.
As a kicker Mr. Gibbons doesn't appear to hesitate when the opportunity arises to dish out some embarassing, touchdown-saving punishment:
But uhhh, Brendan, don't believe for a second that you can make this a common practice because that kind of tackling can draw, shall we say either a flag (for helmet to helmet contact) or "unwanted attention" to a specialist like yourself. Attention just like that received by this unlucky punter one Sunday evening in the NFL:
Special teams are an essential part of any successfull college football team. If Zoltan continues his destruction of galaxies, and Gibbons or Wright can pull through on their end of the bargain with PATs and kickoffs, then this only leaves the kickoff return and punt return teams as the main area of focus for Rodriguez. With Michigan's improved team speed and elusiveness, even that coaching focus can be restricted to imploring Wolverine return men tonot fumble that prolate spheroid.