Michigan coach Lloyd Carr will always love smash-mouth players. But at the annual Signing Day press conference yesterday, he got excited about another type of player: his new kicker.

In between talking about the many big, tough and physical players that officially committed to Michigan yesterday, Carr took a break to express his delight in signing the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Garrett Rivas, one of the top kickers in the country from Jesuit High School in Tampa, Fla.

“We had some of the leading kickers in the country last year in our camp,” Carr said. “(Rivas) was the guy we wanted, the guy we highlighted right from the beginning. This guy can kick the football, now. He is going to have an opportunity.”

Carr had good reason to highlight Rivas; ESPN’s Tom Lemming selected Rivas to Lemming’s version of an All-America team, the “Super Team.” Rivas also gives Michigan depth at kicker and punter, behind Adam Finley who starts at both positions. Finley performed well, connecting on 7-of-10 field goal attempts and earning an All-Big Ten second team selection as a punter. But backing up Finley at kicker is the duo of Philip Brabbs and Troy Nienberg, which combined to make only 5-of-14 attempts. The backup punter is Andy Mignery, a tight end. Carr said that even though last season was Rivas’ first year as a punter, his performance at the new position was “outstanding.”

Carr credited Jay Feeley, the place kicker for Michigan during the 1997 national championship season who currently plays for the Atlanta Falcons, for persuading Rivas to head north. On Feeley’s kicking school website, Rivas states that he didn’t even kick before high school and credits Feeley’s tutelage for his rapid development.

False start: As expected, offensive lineman Jeff Zuttah of Princeton, N.J. signed with Michigan yesterday. But Carr had other news about the recruit that was surprising.

“There is a condition with Jeff that has come up,” Carr said. “It is medically related, so I will make a statement at some point about what it is.”

Defensive shift: Due to the departure of former defensive line coach and special teams coordinator Brady Hoke to serve as head coach of Ball State, Carr announced the “realignment” of his defensive coaches that resembled a game of musical chairs.

Jim Boccher, who served as a graduate assistant the last two seasons, assumed the special team duties held by Hoke. Bill Sheridan, who coordinated recruiting and served as the outside linebackers coach last season, assumed Hoke’s other responsibility: defensive line coach. And alum Steve Morrison, who was a video assistant last year, took over Sheridan’s role as outside linebackers coach.

Baraka’s Saga: Carr also commented on Kelly Baraka, one of the top recruits in the nation two years ago, who was dismissed from the football team last spring. There were rumors during the fall semester of Baraka’s return to the team because he was enrolled at the University. Now that Baraka is no longer enrolled, it is clear he will not wear the maize and blue again. Asked if Baraka ever had a chance to return to the football team, Carr responded in a concise manner.

“Hypothetically.”

Carr went on to wish Baraka the best in the future.

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