Help In The Punt Return Game Is On The Way

With Ronnie Bell out, Michigan's punt return unit is a work in progress.
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It looked like Michigan's punt return unit was going to be a strength early against Western Michigan but that development was quickly altered in a major way when Ronnie Bell went down with a season-ending injury during a return. Since then, Michigan has been trying to figure it out on the fly.

Against Washington, walk-on defensive back Caden Kolesar was back deep because he makes good decisions and has solid hands, per Jim Harbaugh. Unfortunately on one punt, Kolesar made a bad decision opting not to catch the ball and then later dropped another. Earlier today, Harbaugh spoke about Kolesar as a member of the punt return unit and explained why they're likely going to tweak some things.

"He's so valuable at the other positions on punt return that we really need somebody else to step up," Harbaugh said of Kolesar. "I think AJ [Henning] is really close. He had good week of practice last week and should have another one this week. 

"We'll be a better punt return unit if Caden is rushing or holding up. He's just so good there."

Henning seems to make the most sense and is likely the closest to grabbing ahold of the punt returner position, but he's not alone.

"Andrel Anthony, DJ Turner and Donovan Edwards will be the [other] guys in the mix there," Harbaugh listed. 

Kolesar was serviceable last week as a return man but he's nowhere near as dynamic as Henning, Anthony, Turner or Edwards with the ball in his hands. It's not a knock on Kolesar, but it's simply the difference between highly recruited, scholarship athletes and walk ons. If he is as good as Harbaugh says at blocking punts or locking up coverage men, the unit will be vastly improved with one of the other players running the ball back.