Saturday, August 8, 2015

2015 Season Countdown: #22 Blake O'Neill

Blake O'Neill
Name: Blake O'Neill
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 215 lbs.
High school/college: Melbourne (Australia) Peninsula, Weber State
Position: Punter
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #12
Last year: O'Neill played for Weber State. He punted 62 times for 2,737 yards (44.1 yards/punt).

The first of three graduate transfers to be ranked, O'Neill had the longest route to Michigan. Originally from Australia, he played Australian rules football and participated in the shot put to begin college in his home country. He ended up at Weber State in the 2014 season, where he averaged 44.1 yards/punt and was sixth in the Football Championship Subdivision. He also had a 23-yard run (Australian rules football, yay!) and a 17-yard pass (umm...shot put, yay?) to convert first downs on fakes.

To put those punting numbers in perspective, that 44.1 yard average is behind only Zoltan Mesko in 2009 and Will Hagerup in 2012 over the past seven years. O'Neill has a big leg, but he also has a penchant for putting the ball inside the 20-yard line. Other than 2011, when Brady Hoke could do no wrong, Michigan has been very vanilla on special teams. O'Neill and new special teams coordinator John Baxter should usher in some fresh ideas and a more modern approach to the punting unit. The combination of the two should give Michigan one of the top two or three punting units in the Big Ten. O'Neill should be backed up by redshirt junior Kenny Allen, whom I ranked near the bottom of the countdown simply because punters don't often suffer injuries.

Prediction: Starting punter


  1. Glad to have him.

    Ranking makes sense because he's a proven player and has shown to be all-conference caliber peformer. What doesn't make sense is ranking another kicker only 2 spots below him who is a walk-on red-shirt freshman that may or may not even win the job...

    1. Just want to point that I believe Thunder said that he is projecting. It probably makes sense to him based on what he heard and I do not know if any more information than what Thunder does, to question that ranking. At least, not yet.

    2. @ Anonymous 12:43 p.m.

      Correct. The only way it "doesn't make sense" is if it's wrong. And nobody really knows that right now. In the same vein, the implication is that we can't have any idea how any true freshman or redshirt freshman will fit into the depth chart, because we haven't seen any of them play; and therefore, they should all be at the bottom of the countdown because of the uncertainty.

      The whole list is a projection. Derrick Green might be the sixth running back this year and get 2 carries. The coaches might decide to redshirt Shane Morris so he doesn't play at all. Anything and everything are possible when you're trying to predict the future.

    3. Have to agree with Lank here, Thunder. It seems as though you're trying to defend some faulty logic with one.

      Of course this list is a projection - none of us know how the season will turn out. For all we know Jabrill Peppers could not end up playing a single down (admittedly drastic example but I'm taking your logic to the extreme).

      The purpose of this list (and one of the many aspects that makes it great) is to project the most valuable / irreplaceable players based on available evidence. Unless you have some inside information that David is Seychel is regularly drilling 50+ yard field goals and David is incapable of hitting anything within 30, it makes no sense to place one COMPLETELY unknown quantity at 24 and another 50 spots lower. Let's say Seychel was coming off of an all-conference season and David was still coming in as a true freshman - would they be ranked much differently than they are now?

      Love the countdown but have to respectfully disagree with you on that one.

    4. All players who have not yet played are unknown quantities.

      Also, I think placekickers are more valuable than punters, and I have previously placed Will Hagerup in the top 15 twice:

      If we had an all-conference placekicker, I would probably not hesitate to put him in the top 10 somewhere.

    5. I mean, sure, everyone is entitled to an opinion and all that... but there's supposed to be some logic behind this stuff and if the analysis was "well that's just what I think" this blog wouldn't get much readership.

      Thunder can say that Mason Cole is going to be the starting QB if he wants and since the season hasn't started yet he isn't wrong....but he would be

      So, again, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but putting a redshirt walk-on this high on the list is pretty inconsistent with...everything. Even if Seychel wins the job and does well it's only a valid ranking if David sucks in comparison.

      Maybe it'll happen. And maybe Mason Cole will start at QB.

  2. I think the association of O'Neill and Baxter could be a game changer, if not season changer for this team. A kid that can boom em high and far and then make you handle a rugby punt accurately placed at a spot where coverage is pressing can cause mistakes or better yet turnovers. Throw in the ability to drop a ball inside the 20 and a deep defense that is hard to run against and you can pick up a field position win or two.

    As I've said before, Baxter was/is my favorite Harbaugh pickup so far, this kid is also right up there.

    1. Special teams play is definitely one of the things to keep an eye on this coming year!

  3. Can't wait to see this guy become an All B1G punter. Will be a major weapon that will pay dividends in close games where our O is sure to struggle and our D (hopefully) will be carrying the game.

    1. I agree with this. We should be a defensive-oriented team and having a guy who can give you several extra yards on average per possession should make an impact in close games.