Spring Practice: Special Teams

With Spring Practice underway, GBW completes its position by position analysis - examining the special teams outlook for both spring and fall.

Adam Finley returns for his redshirt junior year as Mr. Everything for Michigan's special teams. If called on, he will continue to perform both punting and kicking duties in 2003. Finley is a punter first, but also took care of place kicking in the second half of last season. He struggled initially, and as he improved his kicking, the quality of his punting slipped against Wisconsin. However, Finley performed superbly as a kicker against Ohio State, and he returned to form as a great punter. Likewise, he did very well against Florida, hitting a crucial 33 yard field goal to extend Michigan's lead to eight points late in the forth quarter.

Adam Finley (AP Photo/Mark Hall)

Finley will continue to practice both kicking and punting during the spring. As of right now, he has the punting position locked down, and is the favorite to win both jobs in the fall. Andy Mignery will practice as backup to Finley at punter, having perfectly placed a punt on the one yard line in the Outback Bowl. Phillip Brabbs possesses the strongest leg of all of the kickers, and will handle kick off. Along with Troy Nienberg, Brabbs will be the backup place kicker during Spring Practice.

Phillip Brabbs (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

In the fall, Michigan will add freshman Garrett Rivas as a place kicker, and he will compete with Finley for the starting job. He will try to prove himself in practice. However, if Finley continues to kick the ball well, the coaches may be reluctant to throw a freshman onto the field in a high pressure situation.

Garrett Rivas

Jeremy LeSueur performed well at returning kicks, and was named by Carr as the team's fastest player last Saturday. Chris Perry played opposite LeSueur at kick returner, before being replaced by Timmy Bracken in 2002. Steve Breaston will push to win one of the return jobs, and Quinton McCoy will certainly be considered for the job in the fall. Kick and punt return duties will be decided by competition in the spring and fall practices.

At punt returner, Markus Curry returns with extensive experience. While he struggled at times, he's learned from those mistakes, and will be considered for the job. Fans are clamoring to see Steve Breaston at punt returner, and he will certainly be given a chance to win the job in the fall. Jeremy LeSueur practiced at returning punts last year during Spring Practice, and Marlin Jackson may also be considered for the job. However, given Michigan's lack of depth at cornerback in 2003, the coaches may be reluctant to use Jackson, LeSueur, or Curry on any special teams. And injury to any of them would be catastrophic to the secondary.

Markus Curry (Getty Images/Danny Moloshok)

Michigan has done very well in kick off coverage over the last two years, and punt coverage has been good. As players such as Pierre Woods and Earnest Shazor step into starting jobs, expect them to see less time on special teams. However, Michigan has enough talented young athletes to fill in these spots. Expect the true freshman contributors to see extensive playing time in special teams coverage, as well as kick and punt block teams.

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