Philip reigns as king for a day in Big Ten

With one sure, swift kick, Philip Brabbs went from scapegoat to hero.

Brabbs kicked a 44-yard field goal on the final play of Michigan's 31-29 victory over Washington Saturday at The Big House. On Monday, he was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week. He also was eating a slice of humble pie.

He missed kicks of 36 and 42 yards in the first half.

"I wouldn't really call me a hero," Brabbs said. "Everybody else is out there working so hard all day. I made one out of three field goals. That doesn't make me a hero."

In major league baseball, Brabbs would be in line for a multi-million dollar contract with his 1-for-3 batting average. In the NFL, he would be a candidate for the unemployment line. At Michigan, he's the No. 1 long kicker because the Wolverines were not able to recruit a high-profile successor to Hayden Epstein.

But how is that Michigan, or any major college football team with aspirations of winning conference and/or national titles, could have a walkon placekicker? Truth be told, there is no good answer, only another good question. Do you throw a scholarship the way of an 18-year-old placekicker coming out of high school that might get in the game two or three times on any given Saturday? Or do you invest in a defensive end that might become college football's top pass rusher?

These are questions Michigan coach Lloyd Carr and his staff struggle with on a daily basis. Recruiting a high school placekicker is more of an inexact science than recruiting a player for almost any other position, and we all know what a crapshoot recruiting can be in the first place, right? (See running back Kelly Baraka for the downside to the equation).

Brabbs, a junior/senior from Midland, Mich., likely will continue to wage a battle with Troy Nienberg in the coming days and weeks for the starting job at Michigan. They'll also continue to fall under the microscope. Every kick will be analyzed. Every make will be cause for celebration. Every miss will bring out the boo-birds.

"Both Phil (Brabbs) and Troy (Nienberg) have had a tremendous amount of pressure put on them," fifth-year senior long-snapper Joe Sgroi said at Michigan's Monday football luncheon. "They are in a high-profile situation where they are competing for a job. They are trying to fill the shoes of a guy who was pretty solid for four years for us (Hayden Epstein).

"They have been called out as being the question marks on the team. That is a lot of pressure to put on two young guys who really do not have much experience. Those first couple of kicks had nothing to do with their talent as kickers. They are both very good kickers. I have a lot of confidence that they can continue to perform the way Phil did at the end of the game."

Said Carr of the Wolverines' kicking game: "Going in, I felt Adam Finley would be a very good punter. The question mark was the placekicking. You have to remember that Troy Nienberg kicked the winning extra point. He did all right in there. Philip Brabbs did a tremendous job on kickoffs.

"If you were paying attention, you saw that Washington had probably the best kickoff man in college football. All those balls went too deep in the end zone. Even when he was kicking into the wind, he got the ball very high and inside the 5. So we had great field position.

"But the field goal kicking was the thing I was most concerned with. When you have opportunities to put points on the board and you don't do it, that can be pretty important."

No kidding.

Thanks for reading. Now I'll go back to my little Korner of the World.

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