Donovan Peoples-Jones adds 'huge boost' to return game; Michigan to continue rotating kickers

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Donovan Peoples-Jones is expected to play a bigger role in Michigan's return game moving forward.

Ann Arbor — Having Donovan Peoples-Jones back from injury adds an important piece to Michigan’s receivers group, but he also is vitally important on special teams.

Peoples-Jones, who missed the first two games with injury before returning for the Wisconsin game, returned three punts for 18 yards against Rutgers last weekend. He is expected play a bigger role in the return game as the season goes on, starting with Saturday’s game against Iowa at Michigan Stadium.

“He’s dynamic,” Michigan’s special teams coordinator Chris Partridge said of Peoples-Jones. “He’s elite back there. He puts fear into opponent punt teams.

“It’s a huge boost because what we were facing (when he wasn’t in the lineup) was teams catching the ball and getting it off, so you have no option of blocking a punt. They’re getting it back there fast. Now, you don’t want to get it back there as fast because your gunners don’t have a chance to cover, so it allows us to do a lot more on our punt return and punt block.”

As far as the two-kicker platoon Michigan has been using, Partridge said nothing will change. Quinn Nordin and Jake Moody are part of a rotation that Partridge said has worked flawlessly so far. Moody is 4-for-4 on field goals, while Nordin missed his only attempt, a 55-yarder, against Army. Nordin is 11-of-11 on extra points and Moody is 3-of-3.

“They’re two starting kickers, and whoever’s drive it is, is going to kick,” Partridge said. “People try to overcomplicate things — why?”

Partridge said the decision on who attempts field goals is based on the rotation, not on the situation.

“The only thing that’s happened is Quinn has happened to be up on all the PATs and Moody has gotten the field goals,” he said. “It’s just how it worked out. As of now, we have two starting kickers, don’t overcomplicate it, and whoever’s drive it is will kick.”

That Nordin hasn’t had more than one field-goal attempt in a game doesn’t concern Partridge in terms of whether he has a game rhythm.

“He gets in the rhythm every day in practice,” Partridge said. “When the opportunity arises when he’s up, he’ll get to kick. Hopefully it stays like that forever because that means they’re both making all their kicks.

"There’s been no separation in practice either. If that starts happening, then we think about it, but there hasn’t been. They’ve been neck and neck, equal, competing, making their kicks, doing a great job, being great teammates. That’s how we’re going to roll.”

Twitter: @chengelis