Michigan Wolverines: Will Hagerup

Big Ten's lunch links

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2
12:00
PM ET
Warren Buffett called. My bracket was so bad, he says I owe him $1 billion. D'oh!
We're taking snapshots of each position group with every Big Ten team entering the spring. The series wraps up with the specialists.

Illinois:The Illini might not be exceptional in the kicking game, but they're in better shape than they were when coach Tim Beckman arrived. Punter Justin DuVernois returns after a solid junior season, while Taylor Zalewski looks for a bit more consistency in his second full season as the placekicker. Zalewski made 12 of 17 field-goal attempts last fall. The return game is the real plus, as V'Angelo Bentley provides a major threat, especially on punt returns.

Indiana: Like Illinois, Indiana brings back a dynamic returner in Shane Wynn, who averaged 14 yards on punt run-backs despite limited work. Punter Erich Toth also is back for his third season as the starter. Toth placed 18 of 52 attempts inside the opponent's 20-yard line. IU suffers a big loss at kicker as Mitch Ewald, the team's career field goals and field-goal percentage leader, departs. Aaron Del Grosso and Griffin Oakes will compete at kicker, and Jake Shake (shake and bake!) could enter the mix this summer.

Iowa: Here's another Big Ten team that looks very strong on returns, as Iowa boasts the Big Ten's most dynamic tandem in Kevonte Martin-Manley (punts) and Jordan Cotton (kickoffs). Martin-Manley had two punt-return touchdowns in 2013. Punter Connor Kornbrath ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten in average, but placed 27 of 65 attempts inside the opponent's 20. Iowa loses kicker Mike Meyer, a four-year starter. Junior Marshall Koehn seems likely to step up, but could be pushed by incoming freshman Mick Ellis and others.

Maryland: Notice a theme so far? Most Big Ten teams are strong in the return game, and Maryland is no exception. If Stefon Diggs returns at full strength from his leg injury, he'll be a dangerous man with punts and kickoffs in his hands. Will Likely performed extremely well in Diggs' spot, averaging 26 yards on kickoff returns and 12.8 yards on punt returns. Maryland brings back an excellent kicker in Brad Craddock (21-for-25 on field goals last year), and punter Nathan Renfro enters his third season as the starter.

Michigan: Matt Wile has done a bit of everything for Michigan, but could settle into the starting placekicker role this fall. Wile handled kicking duties late last season and also served as Michigan's punter after Will Hagerup was suspended for the season. Hagerup, the Big Ten's punter of the year in 2012, will reclaim the role if he can avoid off-field problems that have surfaced throughout his career. Wile then could focus on kicking, as Kenny Allen is the only other option there. Michigan is still waiting for big things from kick returner Dennis Norfleet and must find someone to handle punts. Top recruit Jabrill Peppers could help.

Michigan State: Special teams once again should be a strength for MSU, which returns All-Big Ten punter Mike Sadler, a Ray Guy award semifinalist who will contend for All-America honors in 2014. Kicker Michael Geiger also is back after connecting on 15 of 16 field-goal attempts as a true freshman. Macgarrett Kings Jr. and Andre Sims Jr. both put up good numbers on punt returns. Michigan State had by far the fewest kick returns (18) in the Big Ten last year and will look for a boost from R.J. Shelton and others.

Minnesota: After an above-average year on special teams in 2013, Minnesota again should be good in the third phase. Punter Peter Mortell didn't get as many accolades as Sadler or Purdue's Cody Webster, but he had an excellent sophomore season, averaging 43.3 yards per attempt with 15 of 50 yards or longer. Marcus Jones is a major threat on returns after bringing back both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns last fall. Redshirt freshman kickers Ryan Santoso and Andrew Harte will compete as the Gophers lose Chris Hawthorne.

Nebraska: The Huskers are looking for some upgrades on special teams, particularly on punt returns, as Nebraska ranked 123rd in the FBS last fall. Primary returner Jordan Westerkamp is back, but he'll face some competition. Nebraska brings back punter Sam Foltz, who had a solid freshman season, averaging 41.6 yards per boot. Mauro Bondi is set to step in at kicker as Pat Smith departs. If Bondi struggles, incoming freshman Kris Brown could get a look this summer. Kenny Bell, who led the Big Ten in kick return average (26.5 yards per return), is back.

Northwestern: The Wildcats lose a huge piece in Jeff Budzien, named the Big Ten's top kicker in each of his final two seasons. Hunter Niswander can handle both kickoffs and punts but seems likely to slide into Budzien's spot. Northwestern's punting was a mess in 2013, ranking 118th nationally in net average (33.2 ypp). Brandon Williams departs and Chris Gradone or Niswander will take over. The big news is Northwestern brings back Venric Mark , an All-America punt returner in 2012. Primary kick returner Matt Harris is back after a solid freshman season.

Ohio State: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Indeed, the Aussie is back at punter as Cameron Johnston returns after an excellent debut season (I refuse to call a 21-year-old a freshman). Ohio State hopes for similar results from another first-year specialist in kicker Sean Nuernberger, an early enrollee expected to step in for the departing Drew Basil. Sophomore Dontre Wilson will continue to have a big role on returns after handling kickoffs last year. Ohio State must replace Corey Brown on punt returns and could look to redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall or true freshmen Curtis Samuel and Johnnie Dixon.

Penn State: The kicking game continues to be an area of concern.Sam Ficken owns the team record for consecutive field goals (15) and started strong last season but ended with just 15 of 23 conversions, including four misses inside 40 yards. Penn State needs a new punter after losing Alex Butterworth, and will turn to Chris Gulla. Jesse Della Valle did a good job on punt returns, but Penn State needs a boost on kickoffs after finishing last in the league (19.1 yards per return). The Lions could stick with Geno Lewis or look for a newcomer such as De'Andre Thompkins to emerge. PSU also must shore up its coverage units.

Purdue: As if the Boilers didn't have enough to address on offense and defense, the kicking game needs attention. Punter Cody Webster finished his spectacular career with All-America honors, and the Boilers finished second nationally in net punting (41.7 yards per punt). Incoming freshman Austin McGehee will take over for Webster. Paul Griggs and Thomas Meadows continue to work at kicker, as Griggs made only 50 percent of his attempts (6 of 12) last season. The kick return game is strong with Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert, but Purdue must replace punt returner Ricardo Allen. B.J. Knauf could be a good fit there.

Rutgers: The kicking game historically is a strength for Rutgers, which has a knack for blocking kicks and pulling off fakes. Rutgers loses a productive piece in punter Nick Marsh, who also handled kickoffs. The Scarlet Knights will turn to Joseph Roth as their replacement. Kicker Kyle Federico finished the season well, particularly in the Pinstripe Bowl, and returns for his junior season. Rutgers has a major weapon on returns in Janarion Grant, who brought back both a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown during his freshman season.

Wisconsin: The kicking game has held back Wisconsin in the past, so it's definitely an area to watch during the offseason. Kicker Jack Russell converted 9 of 13 field-goal attempts after taking over for Kyle French. He'll try to hold off incoming freshman Rafael Gaglianone. Andrew Endicott, who handled kickoffs last fall, also returns. Wisconsin is looking for more from punter Drew Meyer, who averaged just 38.6 yards per attempt in 2013. Top returner Kenzel Doe is back and should handle both punts and kickoffs, although Wisconsin could look to others for help, such as newcomers Serge Trezy and Natrell Jamerson.

More position breakdowns
Blake CountessAP Photo/Carlos OsorioBlake Countess, a starter at cornerback in 2011 as a true freshman, missed virtually the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan cornerback Blake Countess is a little tired of talking about his knee and whether he’s ready to return. Ninety percent of questions to him during this preseason have been about his ACL injury suffered in the 2012 season opener against Alabama, and how it all plays in his mind.

Countess, a redshirt sophomore, keeps answering all the questions. But he really hasn’t given it too much thought. Countess only watched the game film of it a few times. And really, it didn’t look all that bad.

His injury came on what seemed like a misstep or stumble. It didn't look like it would require surgery and a lost season.

“At first I watched it and was like, ‘How did this happen? How did that one bit of contact make my ACL tear?’ ” Countess said. “It’s kind of hard for me to watch since I know the effects of what happens after it.”

And from the sideline, Michigan secondary coach Curt Mallory saw the same thing. He was not only Countess’ defensive coach, but also the position coach for the spot Countess was playing on the punt team during that injury. Fans and commentators heralded Will Hagerup’s 62-yard punt and only gave passing mention at a Michigan player who slowly ambled from the field.

“I didn’t see much, and by no means am I a physician, but I didn’t see anything other than him come off,” Mallory said. “It wasn’t something that was horrific as far as cutting, but he just twisted wrong. … Sometimes those are the ones that are the worst.”

On the sideline, as Alabama began to run away from Michigan and questions swirled as to his absence, Countess explained to Mallory how he was ready to get back in the game, how his mind was right, how everything was OK. But one look from the athletic trainer told Mallory that it wasn’t the whole story and Countess sat out the rest of the game, and ultimately the season.

Surgery brought a new set of challenges. The brace on his leg was an annoyance. And just as life on crutches became something he could handle, snow began to fall in Ann Arbor.

So he’d crutch in to practices and film sessions, sitting next to Raymon Taylor -- the player who had taken his spot -- and go over schemes two or three times over. It was partly to make sure Taylor knew it and partly to make sure he knew he was still making an impact on the team away from the field.

During away games, as Countess watched from his couch in Ann Arbor, he’d text redshirt senior cornerback J.T. Floyd during halftimes and write notes on the secondary for when they returned.

“It’s easy sometimes when you know you’re not going to play that fall to get away from it and you don’t stay into it. Physically you’re not going to be able to do much, but mentally you can do a lot,” Mallory said. “That offseason really was a mental part of it and that’s where he was able to grow, get better, really learn the playbook.”

Near the end of the season, “coach” Countess was called in to the training room and told to put his crutches against the wall and walk toward strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman.

“They were like, ‘All right, now come toward me,’ and I was like, ‘Nah, I’m not going to do that just yet,’ ” Countess said.

Walking felt weird. He felt like a toddler. A few months before, he had been at the top of his game. Now he was debating with Wellman about whether or not he could/should/would take a step. None of it seemed right.

But he couldn’t run until he walked. So naturally, after that session, he began pushing the staff for his run. By the bowl game, the staff let him jog. By spring camp, he had hoped he could jump into drills. But no, he was told, you can cut. That’s it.

Again, he was relegated to the sideline -- sans crutches, but still labeled as someone who wasn’t quite ready to play.

“It’s easy to feel bad for yourself,” Countess said. “But you have to really think about the team and how I could push the guys [at] my position that are in there now, so I definitely think I’ve matured.”

And that more mature Countess believes he's ready to lead this Michigan secondary. He’s mature enough to admit that the injury sometimes still plays on his mind, that tendinitis bugs him from time to time. And he’s mature enough to take himself out in those moments, knowing that a single misstep can have a much larger effect.

The younger players and coaches see that.

“I think there’s an appreciation that he had for playing. Sometimes you take it for granted,” Mallory said. “The thing he went through a year ago, painful as it was, he has grown from it and realizes it can be taken away from you at any moment. You see that in his work ethic and you see that in his drive.”

WolverineNation Mailbag 

June, 18, 2013
6/18/13
10:00
AM ET
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- We’re almost at the two-month warning before football season starts, so clearly now is the time to discuss the 2014 season. And basketball. And basketball recruiting.

These topics are covered in this week’s Mailbag, filled with your questions. Have questions for us? Send them to @chanteljennings on Twitter or jenningsespn@gmail.com for next week’s mailbag.

On to this week’s conversation.

robbyt003 from The Den asks: What do you think our special teams will look like in 2014? Hagerup at punter, Wile at kicker? Do you think Hagerup will be able to stay out of trouble and even see the field again?

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan punter Will Hagerup, who was suspended from the team on Dec. 16, 2012 for an undisclosed violation of team rules, was reinstated to the team Tuesday.

Hagerup will be able to return to the team for voluntary summer workouts and team events. However, he will sit out the 2013-14 season and return for his final season of eligibility in the 2014-15 season.

“The past five months have been an incredible, humbling time for me," Hagerup said in a Michigan news release. “I understand my actions represent every person that supports me, as well as any man who has worn a Michigan jersey the past 133 years. … In retrospect, I needed to take a big step in the character department, and I’m excited in the progress I’ve made in the last five months.”

This wasn’t Hagerup’s first suspension. The kicker was suspended for the Ohio State game as a freshman in 2010, the first four games of the 2011-12 season and his most recent suspension, which began before the 2013 Outback Bowl. He was one of the top punters in the Big Ten last season, averaging 45.1 yards per kick.

"Getting back around his teammates is an important step in this process,"Michigan coach Brady Hoke said in a news release. "Will and I have had several discussions over the past five months, none of which have been about football. Our primary concern has been for him as a person, and that will not change. … I am pleased with his progress to this point, and he knows that must continue every day moving forward."
Over the next few weeks, WolverineNation will look at every position on the Michigan roster and give a depth chart analysis of each position on the roster heading into the offseason.

Over the past few seasons, it appears as if Michigan has spent more scholarships and time focused on its special teams -- and with good reason. Since Zoltan Mesko left the Wolverines after the 2009 season, there have been lingering questions about all of Michigan’s specialists.

And even when Mesko was in Ann Arbor, there were concerns, although not about their now-Pro Bowl punter.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Season report card: Michigan

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
9:00
AM ET
Final grades are in -- at least for each Big Ten team's regular season. We're handing out report cards on each team's offense, defense, special teams and overall performance in 2012.

Today's subject: the Michigan Wolverines.

Offense: B-minus

Michigan's offense went through several ups and downs this season. The Wolverines averaged a very respectable 30 points per game but ranked just 80th nationally in total offense. The attack fizzled in big games against Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Nebraska, but averaged 40 points against the likes of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue. Denard Robinson ran for 1,166 yards, but was limited in the back half of the season by injuries. Devin Gardner put a charge into the passing game starting in November, rejuvenating the seasons of receivers like Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon. The running backs, though, were a major disappointment, as Fitz Toussaint followed up his 1,000-yard season in 2011 with just 515 yards this season. Much of the blame for that belonged to an offensive line that largely underperformed outside of All-American Taylor Lewan. Michigan's offense could look unstoppable one week and wholly underwhelming the next -- or even from one half to the next, as the season finale showed.

Defense: A-minus

Though not as dominant on the defensive line as they were a year ago, the Wolverines still found ways to develop into a terrific unit. They finished second in the Big Ten in both points allowed and total defense, and were No. 11 and No. 16 nationally in those categories, respectively. Will Campbell finally lived up to his recruiting hype as a senior by becoming a very good run-stuffer. Jake Ryan was a monster at linebacker, constantly disrupting other teams' plans. The secondary overcame the early loss of Blake Countess to do a very good job against the pass and had a great leader in senior safety Jordan Kovacs. Michigan's defense was short on superstars but long on production. The only mark against it was that the defense benefited from playing some questionable Big Ten offenses like Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan State. Better attacks like Alabama, Air Force, Northwestern and Ohio State were able to exploit the Wolverines with speed on the perimeter.

Special teams: B-plus

Will Hagerup was named the Big Ten's punter of the year, and placekicker Brendan Gibbons had a strong year, booting the game-winner against Michigan State and the field goal against Northwestern to send the game into overtime. The Wolverines were average in the return game, where Dennis Norfleet looks like a possible future star. Michigan did rank last in the Big Ten in kickoff coverage, however.

Overall: B-minus

If we were using Brady Hoke's grading scale, we'd have to give Michigan an 'F' since he has said any season that doesn't end with a Big Ten title is a failure. The Wolverines once again fell short of hanging a league or even a division championship banner during their 8-4 campaign. It's tough to be too critical of a team whose losses were to the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 teams in the Associated Press poll (Notre Dame, Alabama and Ohio State) and Legends Division champ Nebraska. But as Hoke would say, this is Michigan, fergawdsake. The Wolverines are expected to not just play great teams, but win their fair share. Robinson's interception-festival cost them a shot at beating Notre Dame on the road, the lack of a strong backup plan when he got hurt killed any chance of winning at Nebraska, and some curious second-half playcalling contributed to the Ohio State loss. Michigan beat the teams it should have beaten and finally broke the losing streak against Michigan State, which was good. But you don't achieve greatness simply by being on the same field with great teams. You have to beat some. That's why a victory against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl would raise the overall grade for the Wolverines' season.

Previous report cards

Illinois
Indiana
Iowa

WolverineNation Roundtable 

December, 20, 2012
12/20/12
9:33
AM ET
Jalen Rose, Glenn Robinson IIIUSA TODAY Sports, Icon SMICould this year's Wolverines have held up against Jalen Rose and the Fab Five?
Every Thursday, the WolverineNation staff gets together to discuss three important issues facing Michigan sports. This week, the writers discuss football suspensions, an interesting basketball matchup and the Detroit Cass Tech pipeline.

1) With the three suspensions from the football team, is two weeks enough to pick up the slack left in the secondary and the kicking game?

Michael Rothstein: Replacing Will Hagerup shouldn't be much of an issue since sophomore Matt Wile did some punting this season and had the job for portions of last season. While Hagerup has a really strong leg, Wile is good enough to be a serviceable replacement. Michigan should be more concerned in the secondary. Courtney Avery is replacing J.T. Floyd, and Avery has been inconsistent. He has had times in his career where he has been quite good -- and other times where he has been burned and eventually passed by Raymon Taylor on the depth chart. Plus, Avery's move to outside corner from the nickel shifts the entire secondary. Michigan should have enough time to adjust without Floyd.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

WolverineNation Mailbag 

December, 19, 2012
12/19/12
9:00
AM ET
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- I kind of felt like Santa Claus with all the questions/mail in my inbox. Only, instead of an iPod, everyone wants info. And I'm not expecting anyone to send me cookies if I answer your questions, but in case you do, feel free to just send them straight to Tom since he is our site's sweets connoisseur.

Next week Mike is taking care of the mailbag, so send your questions to michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or tweet them to @mikerothstein. Now, let's get to this week's questions.

1) Kevin Ujvary via Twitter: Do you think Michigan will be able to get Derrick Green with David Dawson in the fold?

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan’s path to winning the Outback Bowl just got more difficult. For the Wolverines, already trying to beat a top-10 team with a strong defense and a capable offense, losing starting cornerback J.T. Floyd, the most experienced and consistent corner on the roster, along with Big Ten punter of the year Will Hagerup is a big blow.

Now Michigan has to face South Carolina with sophomore Raymon Taylor and junior Courtney Avery as the starting cornerbacks. Taylor has proved he can play well against topflight opponents this season, but Avery has rarely been in a position to be an every-down player throughout his career.

(Read full post)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Devin Gardner continued to show he’ll be just fine as the quarterback of the future for Michigan. And as long as Denard Robinson is hurt, Gardner will be the Wolverines’ man in the present, too.

The pro-style attack Gardner and Michigan ran was once again a smart game plan with a lot of options, and one that has ignited a Wolverines offense that had appeared stagnant through the second half of October.

On a day when Michigan’s defense struggled to contain Northwestern’s Kain Colter and Venric Mark, it needed a big day out of its offense, and it got it with Gardner. His play moves him into the top spot in this week’s Michigan 10 (last week's rankings in parentheses).

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Brendan GibbonsAP Photo/Carlos OsorioKicker Brendan Gibbons continues to deliver in the clutch for the Wolveries.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In one day, Michigan vanquished a rival it had not beaten in four seasons, forced the second rushing of the field after a big win in as many seasons, and, perhaps most importantly for the Wolverines, gave themselves control of the Legends division race.

Not a bad day of work, especially when you consider Michigan did it almost completely with defense and special teams.

Those two units comprise the majority of this week’s Michigan 10 -- the Wolverines football power rankings.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The Michigan 10: Illinois 

October, 15, 2012
10/15/12
10:00
AM ET
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Illinois might be one of the worst teams in the Big Ten this season, and it didn’t help on Saturday when starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was knocked out of the game. But Michigan still did exactly what it needed to do: Win, and win big.

The Wolverines shut out the Illini 45-0 and were led again by Jake Ryan, who is becoming a star this season after being a player in the right position a lot last season.

Due to the defensive dominance, the majority of this week’s Michigan 10 focuses on that side of the ball:

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Big Ten play has started and one week in, Michigan looks like a serious contender not only for a Legends Division title but also to be the league’s representative in the Rose Bowl, especially because the conference’s best team, Ohio State, is ineligible.

Much of the optimism has to do with an improved defense and the re-emergence of quarterback Denard Robinson, who set the Big Ten quarterback rushing record against Purdue.

Because of that and his overall importance in the Michigan offense, Robinson reclaimed the top spot in the Michigan 10, which rates the Wolverines based on performance and other factors surrounding the team. As always, consider this like the stock market, where guys will move up and down -- sometimes violently -- from week to week.
[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
AP Photo/Michael ConroyDenard Robinson is the Big Ten's career quarterback rushing leader.
1. QB Denard Robinson (4): Robinson became the Big Ten’s career quarterback rushing leader and fourth among quarterbacks in the history of FBS teams with a 235-yard performance against Purdue. More importantly, though, he made better decisions passing, including throwing a ball away when he had nothing instead of forcing it.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Thomas GordonLon Horwedell/Icon SMIThomas Gordon is Michigan's second-leading tackler and is jumping up the rankings.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- After its first loss to Notre Dame since 2008, the Wolverines also drop to 2-2 for the first time since that season, which was Rich Rodriguez’s first in Ann Arbor.

There were, though, positive signs for Michigan in a 13-6 loss to the Irish, and most of them were on defense.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Blue Chip Battles: ESPN 300 Update
National recruiting reporter Jeremy Crabtree breaks down the top three recruiting tugs-of-war for uncommitted four- and five-star recruits.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video