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Published: Thursday, 10/7/2010

UM kickers lack clutch experience

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR - Given its propensity for being in close games this year, University of Michigan eventually may need to attempt an important field goal.

Lately, the No. 18 Wolverines haven't attempted any field goals because the offense is too busy scoring touchdowns.

But should the need for three points arise Saturday against No. 17 Michigan State, Rich Rodriguez said Wednesday he's confident in both of his freshman kickers even though neither has attempted a field goal since Seth Broekhuizen missed a 38-yarder - his only try thus far - against Massachusetts on Sept. 18.

"I wouldn't hesitate at all to put Seth or Brendan [Gibbons] in there to try," Rodriguez said. "Going forward, whether it's this game or future games, if we have to make big kicks, I feel confident we can do it."

Gibbons emerged from camp as the starter but struggled early on, converting just 1 of 4 tries, and was yanked in favor of Broekhuizen. Since then, Broekhuizen has also inherited Gibbons' duties of handing kickoffs and point-after attempts.

Rodriguez said he and his staff are evaluating such specifics as which kicker is better from which hash of the field. The coach said the distance from which each is capable is similar - about 50 yards with wind to their back, and 40 with win at their face.

"Most of the practices they've been really consistent," Rodriguez said. "They have to do it in a game for us. Once they do they'll get their confidence and we'll be all right."

Michigan State's Dan Conroy has made all seven of his field goal attempts.

SHAW LIKELY: Michael Shaw (knee) did not practice Tuesday but Rodriguez remains "optimistic" that his starting running back will be available for Saturday.

"I'll have more of an answer after [Wednesday's] practice when I see how he moves around," Rodriguez said.

Shaw, who is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, suffered the injury against Bowling Green and did not play in last week's win at Indiana. Rodriguez said if running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (shoulder) was unable to practice Wednesday that he'd be a scratch for Saturday.

"If he's not back this week then hopefully we'll get him back next week," Rodriguez said.

YOUNG GUYS: Thus far, 12 true freshmen have played for the Wolverines, and Rodriguez does not expect that number to increase from here on out.

"That's probably a high number," he said. "The [remaining 11 freshmen] I'm planning to redshirt. But we don't know, depending on injuries or what have you, we might have to get other guys ready as well."

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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