2008 Michigan Preview: Special Teams

Projected Depth Chart

Lopata (rSr) Mesko (rJr) Wright (rSo) Warren (So) Trent (rSr)
Gingell (rSr) Wright (rSo) Mesko (rJr) Mathews (Jr) Harrison (Sr)
Wright (rSo) Barnum (Fr) Odoms (Fr) Minor (Jr)
Shaw (Fr) Odoms (Fr)

Kicking Game
After The Horror and the several other games in which Jason Gingell was horrible, he was replaced by5th-year senior KC Lopata, who just so happened to be pretty good. He will return as the kicker. Punting will be the domain of redshirt junior Zoltan Mesko, with Bryan Wright handling kickoffs. Wright is also moving from placekicker to punter, where he will back up Mesko.


Michigan Kicking 2007
Name FGM Att % Long XPM Att %
KC Lopata 11 12 91.67 42 28 29 96.55
Jason Gingell 3 9 33.33 42 14 14 100.00
Michigan Punting 2007
Name Punts Yds Avg
Zoltan Mesko 70 2876 41.09

KC was a good replacement for Gingell last year, and should maintain his grip on the job in 2008. He was consistent, even if he doesn’t have great leg strength. Zoltan is poised to be one of the best punters in the conference, and Bryan Wright has a big leg for kicking touchbacks, but clearly not accurate enough to kick field goals. The move to a rugby punt may scare some Michigan fans, but it hasn’t come back to bite West Virginia in recent years.

Return Game
On punt returns, Donovan Warren is expected to be the starter. If his speed isn’t what the team needs at the position, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a return to the steady hands of Greg Mathews. On kickoff returns, Morgan Trent and Brandon Harrison are expected to start. Both have good top-end speed.


Michigan Punt Returns 2007
Name Ret Yds Avg TD
Greg Mathews 28 224 8.00 0
Donovan Warren 5 23 4.40 0
Johnny Sears 2 14 7.00 0
Michigan Kick Returns 2007
Name Ret Yds Avg TD
Carlos Brown 16 306 19.13 0
Brandon Minor 13 257 19.77 0
Johnny Sears 6 133 22.17 0
Brandon Harrison 4 74 18.50 0
Mike Massey 2 28 14.00 0
Junior Hemingway 2 20 10.00 0
Obi Ezeh 1 13 13.00 0
Jonas Mouton 1 20 20.00 0

There are plenty of options, especially with the freshmen recreuited to the speed-friendly offense of Rich Rodriguez. Don’t be surprised to see a more exciting return game than Michigan had in 2007, though perhaps not as electrifying as Steve Breaston was in the role.

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7 Comments so far

  1. Anonymous says...

    Seriously, VB has really become a must view page at least a couple of times a day. Luckily I live in the Bay area, so there is usually new content by the time I check!

  2. Anonymous says...

    I agree, this really is a great blog. Keep it up and you will have more readership.

  3. Anonymous says...

    Awesome preview, as always, and Zoltan will be one of the best punters in the country, not just the conference.

    Lopata was also a great replacement for Gingell, he only missed one field goal late in the season that we all knew was beyond his distance. I do not hold that against him.

    As mentioned when we landed Fera, the kicking and punting games are so unappreciated until you realize you don’t have one, but it is so relieving that we really don’t have a single worry about either our field goal kicker, our punter, or our kickoff man.

    Go Blue!

  4. Jacques Auef says...

    What’s this about Ricky Barnum as being the third stringer Kick off guy?

  5. Anonymous says...

    Wow. I had forgot about Johnny Sears. He was so beat. Thank G he’s gone.

  6. Anonymous says...

    How in the world did Johnny Sears manage to have the highest kick return average?

  7. Tim says...

    By having most of his attempts come against a 1-AA team.

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