Name: Will Hart
Weight: 206 lbs.
High school: Hunting Valley (OH) University School
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #17
Last year: I ranked Hart #45 and said he would be the backup punter (LINK). He was the First Team All-Big Ten punter after averaging 47 yards per punt.
TTB Rating: N/A
Hart had one of the biggest one-season turnarounds in memory. As a redshirt freshman in 2017, he was below average when forced into duty as the starting punter. He averaged just 37.7 yards per punt, which was literally the worst average in the Big Ten, if he had had enough attempts to qualify.
The 1991 Minnesota Twins ain’t got nothin’ on Will Hart.
Hart went worst to first, averaging 47.0 yards per punt in 2018. He had a long of 65, 19 kicks that went 50+ yards, and landed 15 kicks (out of 43) inside the 20-yard line. The #2 punter in the conference was Penn State’s Blake Gillikin at 44.0 yards per punt. That 47.0 average is the highest in Michigan history, and his single-game average of 59.3 against Nebraska is also a program record.
In one year Hart went from the worst punter in the conference to the best punter in Wolverines history.
This year Hart figures to be a stalwart once again. Former presumed starter Brad Robbins entered the transfer portal in the off-season, but he’s still listed on Michigan’s roster as a 6’1″, 199 lb. junior. I don’t imagine he will win the job back. This is Hart’s gig to lose, obviously. It’s hard to expect another record-breaking season, but expectations are still high. Obviously, going from 37.7 yards per punt to 47 is almost a 10-yard difference in field position, as long as the punt coverage can still get downfield and hold returners to modest or no gains. Luckily, Hart gets a lot of air time instead of counting on rugby-style bounces and rolls, so big returns haven’t been an issue.
Prediction: Starting punter