Mesko Has Breakout Year

Michigan's Zoltan Mesko is enjoying a career year that has him on the Ray Guy Award watch list after the first month of the season. He's added three yards on average to each of his punts, and he was instrumental in helping hold Penn State to just nine points last week. Mesko met with the media on Monday to talk about his breakout season.

ANN ARBOR -- Punter Zoltan Mesko came to Michigan somewhat under the radar. After being spotted blasting balls over Schembechler Hall at the 2004 Michigan summer camp, the Maize and Blue and Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr were quick to offer the 6-foot-4, 230-pound punter. Not long after, Mesko, who was eventually selected as a U.S. Army All-American, pledged to join the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, and, now in his third season with the winged helmet, Mesko is making strides to help an improved punt team provide stability to a special teams unit that has been much maligned in 2007.

"This guy is is having a great year," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said on his punter following Zoltan's performance against Penn State this weekend. "I thought our coverage really gave our defense good field position. Three punts inside the 20."

With Penn State in town last weekend, special teams coverage was vital with former five-star recruit Derrick Williams returning punts for the previously No. 10-ranked Nittany Lions. As a result, Mesko, who's increased his average punt by over three yards since last season, went into the contest with a different frame of mind then he has in each of the first three contests.

"I could have a little less air under each one," Mesko said afterward. "We went into it planning on trying to take away the return game."

As a result, Williams, who was deep for six punts, was unable to return a single ball, providing the Wolverines with a critical edge in the field position battle in a game that puts Michigan back on one of the inside lanes in the race for the Big 10 Championship.

"One thing that we did improve on was our coverage on punts. We knew that special teams was going to be a big part of the game on Saturday, so by taking them out of the equation, it allowed us to focus on offense and defense and win the game that way."

Now a quarter of the way through the season, Mesko has seen both his average punt and his net punt totals rise from last season. Averaging just over 42 yards per kick, Zoltan, who was described as a student of punting by Carr earlier this season, continues to be the rock on the Wolverines special teams as they try and get back to Pasadena.

"It's like playing golf," Mesko joked on Monday. "I tell people that the more you swing a golf club, the better you're going to get. It's the same way with punting. The more repetitions you have, the easier it is to recognize if something is off and what you need to do to solve the problem."

And how does Zoltan fair on the golf range?

"I'm a much better punter," Zoltan laughed with a crowd of reporters. "I would guess that I shoot in the nineties. I'm pretty good at hitting it like Happy Gilmore. I did try that once last summer though, and the club head topped into the ground. I lost my club and it must have flown 150 yards down the middle of the fairway."

Zoltan Mesko and the Wolverines look to improve to 2-0 in the Big 10 with their first road game of the season at Northwestern on Saturday afternoon. Coverage of the game is scheduled for the Big 10 Network.

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