ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Among other areas of the Michigan football program, the special teams unit has also seen a considerable step forward this season compared to last year.
That progression of course, is due in part of special teams coordinator John Baxter's coaching. Baxter has also seen that progression as well. With a combination of great defense and good special teams play, it's safe to say that Baxter is happy with what he has.
"I'm really pleased with the punt return," Baxter said. "The amazing thing is that we've had 51 reps of it in five games. Somebody needs to go back far and see how many times you've had 51 reps in five games. Obviously it's because we've played amazing defense and what have you. If you really look at what that unit has done, they've been three returnable balls kicked to us out of 51. We've had a round-robin of Australian rugby punters in the first four games and everyone found out it's really hard to return one of those."
Although the punt return unit has had very few opportunities to return the ball, Baxter believes it'll come in time. Especially if cornerback Jabrill Peppers is leading the way.
"The baseball analogy is that we've hit the ball hard," Baxter said. "Unfortunately we've knocked it off the wall for doubles and triples, we haven't had a home run yet. I think the thing that goes unsaid is Jabrill's amazing decision making back there, unselfishness to not risk balls that shouldn't be touched or should be on the ground. Protecting his teammates, those kinds of things. Besides being explosive, the punt returner needs to be a great decision maker and really needs to handle the ball well.
"One of the things we always say is if you handle the ball, you handle the team. And you need to take care of the team."