January 14, 2013
2013 Projected depth chart & analysis: Specialists
Dennis Norfleet has moved from offense to defense, from running back to cornerback, but regardless of which side of the ball he plays on in 2013, expect him to continue returning kickoffs and potentially punts for the Wolverines.
Kickers: Brendan Gibbons will return as the incumbent starter for the Maize and Blue after enjoying one of the top statistical seasons in U-M football history. Gibbons connected on 16 of 18 attempts (88.9 percent) and now ranks sixth all time with a career conversion percentage of 75.0.
While Gibbons blocks junior Matt Wile's path to the full-time placekicking job, the San Diego native should receive greater opportunity to handle longer field goals after connecting from 48 and 52 yards out this year. He has instilled enough confidence in his coaches that if U-M crosses the 50-yard line, Wile at least creates the chance that any stalled drive can result in points.
Punters: Wile could see an expanded role as Michigan's punter in 2013 depending on senior Will Hagerup's offseason. Hagerup wasn't kicked off the team in December despite his third off-field incident, and there is no reason to believe he'll be dismissed this spring without further transgression. However, if he does run afoul of U-M's team code of conduct again, he's likely gone.
Hagerup was the Big Ten Punter of the Year after averaging 45.0 yards per punt, while Wile averaged 35.9 last year in a pooch-punter role and has a 39.2 average in his career. In six games filling in for Hagerup full time, the rising junior averaged 42.6 yards per kick.
Returnmen: Norfleet was one of the Big Ten's top kickoff returners, averaging 23.6 yards per return, but his long was 38 yards, and he never crossed the 50-yard line, so there is room for improvement. The sophomore did average 26.5 yards on two punt returns, including a 42-yarder, and could see his role there expand as he earns greater trust from the coaches.
Fifth-year senior Jeremy Gallon has handled U-M's punt returns each of the past three seasons, and is averaging 7.3 yards per opportunity for his career. Gallon's primary objective is to secure the football, which he has done well, but he's been terribly inconsistent in gaining yards. In fact, he's gained 187 of his 301 yards (62.1 percent) on just nine returns, averaging 20.8 yards on those chances. He's had just 114 yards on 32 other returns (3.6-yard average).
Holders/Snappers: Michigan welcomes back its long snapper and holders from a year ago, and will be bringing in true freshman Scott Sypniewski as the heir at long snapper.
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