Wolverines add weapon with walk-on kicker
Written by Matt Pargoff   

With Michigan’s 2013 recruiting class already packed with 26 commitments, there isn’t much room to add more, but the Wolverines have added a valuable component to the squad with Macomb (Mich.) Lutheran North kicker J.J. McGrath agreeing to become a preferred walk-on in the fall.

“He is looking forward to wearing the Maize and Blue,” said Lutheran North head coach Ryan Wesley.

While kicker is not generally considered the most glamorous position, it is one that is necessary and important as Michigan fans are well aware. The Wolverines are getting a long-range weapon with the addition of McGrath.

“He’s got three of the longest field goals in Michigan history,” noted Wesley. “He’s the only one that’s on that list more than once. He’s got a 52-yarder, a 54-yarder and a 57-yarder. The 57-yarder was in the fourth quarter to win the game against Yale this past year. It could have been good from a good deal further, but 57 was all we needed.

“He didn’t want to know the distance. He just wanted to go out there and kick, then after the fact he always asks how long it was. He just wants to focus on the kick.”

While some big-legged kickers struggle to place the ball accurately on every effort, regularity has not been a problem for McGrath throughout his high school career.

“With consistency he’s real good,” explained Wesley. “We had a situation where our field wasn’t in the best shape … He was 8-of-12 on the season, but he missed three field goals in one game where the field was completely uneven on the right hash and he had one blocked because of our blocking up front.

“Then we had him kick one from 60 or 61 in a game that was very much well in hand that he missed. Those were the only four he missed. Outside of that one game, every kick that mattered he put through the uprights.”

As a junior, McGrath made 7-of-11 field goals and he made 5-of-8 attempts as a sophomore.

“He’s been able to do it for a long time in a variety of situations,” Wesley stated. “Some of them – the rain does not seem to bother him at all. He kicked one to win the game his junior year from 47 yards in an absolute downpour.

“He was 62-of-63 on extra points his last three years. He’s only missed one extra point in his entire career and that’s because it was a block.”

In addition to kicking, McGrath is also an accomplished punter, with three efforts over 50 yards as a senior and an average of 41 yards per punt. To put that in perspective, only three players in the Big Ten averaged 42 yards or better in 2012. McGrath’s career long was a 68 yard punt.

“At 6-2, 230 pounds or whatever he is, he’s a big boy, so he’s not your prototypical kicker body, but he’s a competitor first and foremost,” raved his head coach. “He wants to win. He understands situations where he’s not called upon because it’s better for the team to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking. Or situations where we have to coffin-corner a kick, his average might not be as good on those punts, but it doesn’t matter to him. He wants to do what’s best for the team.”

McGrath will start out as a preferred walk-on at Michigan, but there are high expectations that he will be able to compete for the job down the road and earn an available extra scholarship.

“Kicker scholarships are not frequent out there,” noted Wesley. “Typically that scholarship is reserved for your active kicker and you have to work your way through the program to get that scholarship. I have no doubt that he’s going to get a scholarship at some point, but he might have to bide his time before that happens”

Photo credit to Jared Purcell / Mlive.com

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