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January 23, 2012Michigan recruited Matt Wile for good reason - its field-goal woes demanded another option. But one season later, Wile is lodged behind redshirt junior Brendan Gibbons, raising today's offseason question: should the Wolverines look to redshirt Wile in 2012?
U-M doesn't need to recruit a specialist for awhile, a long while if it finds a way to redshirt the San Diego native in his sophomore year. But before that can happen, two players must step up first.
The Big Ten doesn't hand out a postseason award for Most Improved Player (which is a tad surprising because it has an award for everything else it seems), but if it did, Gibbons should have been the recipient in 2011 after resurrecting his career when all was lost.
The Floridian connected on 13 of 17 attempts (76.5 percent), including all three he had in the Sugar Bowl, one year after making just 1 of 5, and being so bad that former coach Rich Rodriguez abandoned the notion of even attempting field goals late in the year.
For Wile to have a shot at redshirting, Gibbons needs to prove he's capable of being just as accurate or even more consistent than he was this past fall.
There was talk throughout the season that Wile would handle longer field goals but Gibbons connected from 43 yards, and has a big enough leg to split the uprights from a little further out. Chances are U-M might attempt one or two outside of his range all year, but barring a game-winning kick against Ohio, such a consideration hardly seems a legitimate reason not to redshirt Wile.
There is a second responsibility of Gibbons, though - kickoffs; he needs to be handle both roles, for that is an area Wile specialized in during the 2011 campaign.
The far greater impediment to redshirting Wile is at punter, where junior Will Hagerup has to resurrect his own career following a sophomore season in which the Milwaukee, Wisc., native saw his average drop from 43.6 yards per punt to 36.0 yards per punt.
Hagerup was suspended for the first four games of the season, reclaimed the job upon his return, but lost it in the second half of the Sugar Bowl after averaging 25.0 yards on two tries. Wile, on the other hand, wasn't a liability in September (41.1-yard average) nor against Virginia Tech (43.7-yard average).
With a quiet offseason, Hagerup should be able to win back his job, and if he does, and Gibbons continues to mature, Wile should be a candidate to redshirt because he is capable of handling both responsibilities, and could give the Wolverines assurances through the 2015 season long after Gibbons (2013) and Hagerup (2013) depart.