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Wile has leg up on competition

UM freshman may handle all kicking duties to start season

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Michigan kicker Matt Wile, a fifth-generation Wolverine, may handle extra-points along with kickoffs and punting.

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ANN ARBOR -- In a span of 10 seconds, Matt Wile would sprint onto the football field at his San Diego high school, align himself to kick a field goal, and then -- boom.

This frenetic practice drill taught Wile to handle pressure. No time to relax or analyze. The clock is ticking. Kick the ball.

"In a situation like that, you don't have time if you have any rituals," Wile, a Michigan freshman, said recently. "You just have to go out there and do it."

You can't do it alone, though. Down on one knee holding the ball is Wile's father, Peter, who could be the singular biggest reason his son is playing football at Michigan this fall, and not somewhere else.

Dr. Wile is an alumnus of UM's medical school, a fact that has little, if anything, to do with Matt being a Wolverine.

More importantly, Dr. Wile is the team physician at San Diego State University, meaning Matt got to hang around Aztecs' practices the past two seasons when head coach Brady Hoke and his staff were working to fortify a downtrodden program.

Hoke, who is now at Michigan, offered Wile a scholarship the summer before his junior year.

"I kind of knew what type of kid he was," Michigan special teams coach Dan Ferrigno said. "We've been around him quite a bit, more so than the kids we have here."

Wile and Ferrigno are trying to apply a kick in the pants to a field goal unit that in 2010 was, to put it charitably, unreliable. Hoke has pretty much declared Wile the man to handle kickoffs and punting, at least for the first four games while returning starter Will Hagerup sits out for violating an undisclosed team rule.

It stands to reason Wile, a high school All-American who made 19 of 25 field goals over his final two seasons, could be commissioned to be the team's place kicker, too. He's currently involved in a three-way competition with sophomores Seth Broekhuizen (3-for-9 on field goals in 2010) and Brendan Gibbons (1-for-5).

"Field goals is still a competitive process," Hoke said last week.

In January, three days after Hoke accepted the Michigan job, he once again offered Wile a scholarship -- this time to be a Wolverine. As far as decisions go, this appeared to be a no-brainer. Not only did Wile's father attend UM, but so did his grandfather, his great grandfather, and the father of his great grandfather. That makes the youngest Wile a fifth-generation Michigan Man.

An easy decision, this was not. At least not initially.

"When I got the scholarship here, it was not an immediate choice," Wile said. "I still had to come see the school. For me it was all about, first, academics, and then coaching staff, and then football. When I came [to visit the school] everything fit together."

Wile canceled an upcoming trip to Nebraska, and committed to Michigan. Peter Wile, who was prohibited from being interviewed for this story by UM's media relations, plans to leave his job at SDSU so he can travel to attend Michigan's games.

Dr. Wile hasn't been on the practice field lately to hold the ball as Matt runs from the sideline to kick a field goal against a self-imposed time constraint. He isn't needed, though.

As it turns out, the crew in charge of erecting new scoreboards at Michigan Stadium are noisy. The sound of static released from stadium speakers is a welcomed distraction for Wile.

"That helps put a little pressure on you, he said. "It makes it noisy and uncomfortable."

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.

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