Michigan punter Will Hagerup says his focus has shifted from his punting average to trying to pin opponents close to their own goal line. He said he won't be nervous about his return today. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)
Ann Arbor — Will Hagerup has been away from football a long time.
Sometimes, it must have seemed like forever.
But Hagerup is back, having served a one-year suspension, a punishment determined by Michigan coach Brady Hoke. Hagerup had been named the Big Ten’s punter of the year in 2012 when he was suspended for the bowl game for an undisclosed team violation. Hoke then extended the suspension for the entire season.
The fifth-year senior returns as the Wolverines’ starting punter for the season opener today against Appalachian State at Michigan Stadium.
He said he will not be nervous.
“I wouldn’t say it’s nerves, I would say it’s just an incredible excitement,” Hagerup said this week. “I’ve gone back this week and talked to my parents and friends about the road I’ve taken to get to this point, sort of a peculiar way of getting there. Sort of recapping some of those less enjoyable times. I’m more excited to have this opportunity than nerves. It’s not something I’m fearing or anxious about. I’m just really, really excited to reach this point.”
Hagerup, a fifth-year senior, does not make a point of dwelling on his complicated career. Instead he dwells on lessons learned.
“I keep it in there once in a while as a reminder that no matter what happens this season, I had some personal accomplishments, and I’m in the best place I could be,” he said. “It’s not something I dwell on, but it’s something I like talking about to people I’m close to as a reminder of some of the things I’ve overcome.”
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Hagerup said he intends to be a “weapon” when he’s on the field. He said he’s punting as well as ever.
“On the whole my consistency and power are as high as they’ve ever been,” Hagerup said.
Early in his career, he used to be hung up on punting averages. But that’s in the past. His goal is to hit punts within the 20- or 10-yard lines and put the defense in a strong position.
While he does not anticipate dealing with nerves before the opener, he imagines he will have some strong emotions after the game.
“I think when it’s game time, it’s game time,” Hagerup said. “I’m not going to be thinking about my sob story of the last two years. Everybody’s heard the deal over and over, so I’m not going to be sitting here on the bench thinking about what happened the last year and half.
“I came here my freshman year came as a kid who needed to grow up. Where I’m at now is a testament to everyone around me. I’ve definitely made some good changes in my life.”
Working toward consistency
Junior center Jack Miller said the much-maligned offensive line is sick of hearing all the criticism for its overall lackluster performance last season.
“We’re definitely ready to move past it,” Miller said. “You take the lessons last year provided. Some of the bad things that happened are teaching lessons for the younger players. For me personally, (it was) the consistency thing. There are a lot of good guys on the offensive line here.”
Miller started the first four games last season at center before Graham Glasgow moved into the starting lineup. Glasgow, who worked at center and guard during preseason camp, is sitting out against Appalachian State for disciplinary reasons.
Miller, who will start at center, said he was disappointed he lost the job last season but pointed to a lack of consistency as the reason.
“I wanted to still stay on the field, but I prided myself on being the guy who wasn’t going to pout, wasn’t going to let my teammates down or let myself down,” Miller said. “I kept working. I took pride in the fact that I tried to help the guys who replaced me as best I could. I tried to take them under my wing and give them advice and show them how to be successful. I tried to be a team guy. While I was disappointed, I tried to make the best of it for the team.”
Michigan fans will be able to listen to the radio broadcasts featuring Jim Brandstatter on play by play and Dan Dierdorf as analyst delay-free in Michigan Stadium this season. A partnership between WTKA Radio (1050 AM) and Michigan/IMG Radio worked to eliminate the delay with the radio station. Fans can bring a small transistor radio into the stadium as long as it meets security requirements.
On game days, the newly renovated Schembechler Hall and Towsley Football Museum will be open to the public. Admission is free. For a noon kickoff, the hours are 8 a.m.-10 a.m., for a 3:30 kickoff, 8 a.m.-noon, and for a night game, the hours are 10 a.m.-3 p.m.