Michigan “more than comfortable” with Allen kicking all three phases

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - 4:23pm

Former walk-on Kenny Allen only has one year under his belt as the starting kicker for the Michigan football team, but the fifth-year senior could see his workload increase dramatically.

After a very successful 2015 campaign in which he made 18-of-22 field goals and went 46-for-46 on extra points — and earned himself a scholarship to boot — Allen now stands as the Wolverines’ leading candidate at all three phases of kicking: field goals, punting and kickoffs.

With punter Blake O’Neill graduated and no other experienced players on the roster to replace him, Allen finds himself in a unique position — tight ends coach and assistant special teams coordinator Jay Harbaugh estimated that only five players in the country last season kicked three ways. (One of them, coincidentally, is Hawaii’s Rigoberto Sanchez, who the Wolverines will see this weekend.)

While it still hasn’t been officially decided whether Allen will take on that heavy workload — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday they would like for him not to have to — his improvement over the last year has given his coaches plenty of confidence in him.                                                                        

“Pretty much everything, he’s improved on,” Jay Harbaugh said. “We ask a lot of him to really shoulder the burden in all three phases, which not many guys do in the country. … Kenny’s excelled, he’s improved in every way. It’s exciting for him, as a senior, to be playing so well in every category.”

According to the senior Harbaugh, freshman Quinn Nordin (the nation’s top kicking recruit) could still be in the mix for field-goal and kickoff duty, and sophomore Ryan Tice has been making enough field goals in practice that his name has popped up in the conversation as well.

Nordin also played all three phases in high school, but Harbaugh all but guaranteed that Allen had at least the punter’s job locked up for sure. If the Wolverines do decide to limit Allen’s workload, Nordin remains the most likely alternative — perhaps as a long-distance specialist, as Allen made just three of six field goal attempts from beyond 40 yards last season.

But both Harbaughs made it abundantly clear that if Allen continues to be the best performer at all three positions, he’ll be the player who gets the call.

“We’d be more than comfortable with it,” Jay Harbaugh said. “He’s physically more than capable of doing all three. He has the talent. I think ideally, you’d like to take a little bit off his plate, but it’s a long season. As other guys develop into certain roles, I think that could happen, but we’d be more than comfortable with him doing it if need be.”