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Published: Monday, 10/11/2010

Fate pits Koger against Rockets

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR The contract for today's Michigan-Toledo match-up hadn't even been signed when the Rockets came calling for Kevin Koger.

According to Koger, Michigan's freshman tight end and newly appointed starter at that position, UT offered him a scholarship in the summer of 2006, following his sophomore year at Whitmer High.

'Ha, well, we knew about him a long time ago,' Rockets coach Tom Amstutz said in a nod toward verifying Koger's claim. 'We knew he was a good player, a special talent, and we put an offer out to him.'

Of course, circumstances unfolded in a way that the player UT coveted at such a young age will line up against the Rockets in their first-ever trip to Michigan Stadium. If you believe in fate, how all this came to be is a feather in your cap.

First off, UM and UT entered into a contract to play today's game on May 17, 2007 the tail end of Koger's junior year at Whitmer.

As the recruiting process dragged on, Koger had many suitors besides those two schools, including Ohio State, Illinois, Boston College, Purdue and Cincinnati. He said he chose the Wolverines because of the school's proximity to his Toledo home.

But even then, after it was announced UM and UT would square off and Koger was headed for Ann Arbor, there was still no guarantee Koger would actually play against the Rockets.

'When I came in I was like, well, if I redshirt it's fine. If I get playing time, that'd be fine, too,' Koger said. 'But I really didn't think I'd see the field.'

And for UM's first three games, he didn't. The 6-foot-4, 238-pound Koger stood third on the depth chart while junior Carson Butler and senior Mike Massey played in front of him.

But in that third game, a 35-17 loss to Notre Dame, Butler was ejected for taking a swing at an opposing player. The Wolverines next played Wisconsin, and with Butler benched Koger saw his first action in the second quarter.

Koger caught his first pass a 26-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and made his first start last week against Illinois. His lone official catch was that touchdown against the Badgers, but he had a touchdown grab erased by penalty a week ago.

'Kevin's playing well. He's playing better than any tight end, and that's why he's starting,' UM coach Rich Rodriguez said. 'And he's a smart guy and he'll keep getting better.

'We're proud of him. He's done some good things both in the pass game and the run game.'

Enter Amstutz, a Whitmer grad himself who admires Koger and once hoped he'd play at UT. Now Amstutz has to coach against him.

'It's good for him that he's battling and has worked his way up the depth chart,' Amstutz said. 'After this week, I can cheer for him again.'

Koger said UT was the first school to offer him a scholarship. He said he dealt mostly with current Rockets secondary coach Andy Boyd, another Whitmer graduate.

Close friends of Koger on UT's team include fellow Whitmer grads Devon McCreary (the two talk nearly every day) and Beau Norton, and Koger said he's also familiar with Aaron Opelt, Morgan Williams, and Danny Noble.

Many of Koger's friends back home have told him they'll be at today's game, but he is downplaying any added importance of going up against the school from his

hometown.

'It's a special game, but it is another game,' Koger said. 'It is Toledo, but it's another

team on the schedule.'

Contact Joe Vardon at: jvardon@theblade.com or 419-410-5055.



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