ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Long snapper is a position in which offering a scholarship is still somewhat unorthodox. Much like giving kickers and punters scholarships a decade ago, this new wave of scholarship offers is slowly gaining acceptance.
As football continues to become more specialized, giving long snappers a free ride for four years is beginning to happen more often.
Michigan was always going to take a long snapper somehow. It has been a personal preference of coach Brady Hoke for years, and this season made the most sense to grab one.
The Wolverines’ first-string snapper, Jareth Glanda, has one year of eligibility remaining. The backup, Curt Graman, chose to not return for his final season. With no obvious candidates on the roster -- although Michigan is going to work different guys at the position in the spring -- they looked to high school recruits.
Four or five snappers came through various camps. One stood out for multiple reasons. Scott Sypniewski had a family connection with Hoke, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and tight ends/special teams coach Dan Ferrigno: His father had played for the trio at Western Michigan.
Then came his talent, which was at a different level than what Michigan had seen from others.
“We timed him and his times were outstanding,” Ferrigno said. “A good long snapper is getting the ball back in .75, .8. He was getting it back at .65, .75.
“We saw that and he had the ability to block his gap and said, you know what, we have one more year of Jareth and Jareth has done an excellent job, but we’ve got this opportunity where we can get him. We have this family history, so why not take him?”
Family history helped, but the reasoning went beyond that. Part of why it is somewhat important for Michigan to have a long snapper on scholarship is because of how the Wolverines cover punts.
Unlike a lot of programs that have their long snapper snap and then head down field in coverage, the long snapper at Michigan also has to pick up some blocking responsibilities.
“Our punt is a little bit different than most other teams,” Ferrigno said. “Nebraska runs our punt and we, of course, run our punt. It is a punt where the center has to snap and block a gap, so you just don’t snap and run down the field.
“You have to have some skill and some ability.”
As good as Sypniewski might be -- and that won’t be shown until at least the fall, if not a year from now if he does not beat out Glanda -- one of the main trigger points for taking a long snapper on scholarship came down to Hoke.
When Hoke was at Ball State, he actually recruited Graman as a tight end and long snapper, so the history is there for him to find guys who can do it.
Why? Hoke doesn’t want to be caught in a bad situation.
“They are so invaluable,” Hoke said. “If you don’t have that mindset, you’re going to go into a game and your guy gets hurt and you’re going, ‘I wish we had another long snapper.’
“That job is so critical.”
Critical enough that Michigan chose to use a spot in its 2013 class on it.