The Michigan Wolverines have been fairly sound in the kicking game over their recent history; one infamous game-losing blocked punt against Michigan State in 2015 notwithstanding.
In 2020 the program lagged behind during its limited coronavirus-marred season, however, finishing 14th in the Big Ten in field goals made (dead last in percentage) and 9th in net kickoff yardage.
The team did finish 4th in net punting, but the stat obscures a glaring need for better performances at the placekicking position moving forward.
While holdover Jake Moody returns for the Wolverines and has made 17-of-24 field goals over the course of his three seasons in Ann Arbor, Head Coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff had their eyes focused firmly on the future of the position recently, after hosting the son of one of the greatest kickers of all-time on campus.
If all goes according to plan, the Wolverines may have found themselves a diamond in the rough for the 2022 class — assuming he’s willing to make the trek up north to do his kicking in Ann Arbor, as Harbaugh and company seem to hope.
Adam Vinatieri’s Son A.J. Could Be Next in Line as Michigan’s Kicking Game Ace
Hailing from Zionsville, Indiana, much like a recent five-star linebacker the Wolverines made the cut for according to 247Sports.com, A.J. Vinatieri has surprisingly flown beneath the radar despite his world class kicking genes.
The class of 2022 prospect is all-in on his football dream, however, and visited with the Wolverines’ recruiting and coaching staff in Ann Arbor recently, according to his Twitter account.
He later tweeted on July 7 that he has in fact received an offer from the Wolverines, to which he said he was honored.
After a great phone call with @JayHarbaugh I’m honored to receive an offer (PWO) to The University of Michigan. Thank you to all the coaching staff for this opportunity! @JTBrown721 #GoBlue pic.twitter.com/u1mIe9dga9
— Aj Vinatieri (@AjVinatieri) July 8, 2021
— Aj Vinatieri (@AjVinatieri) June 27, 2021
Vinatieri is both a kicker and a punter who boasts a 3.4 GPA and is an Indiana Preps Top 22 Underclassman.
In November of last year, while the Wolverines were struggling in Big Ten play against the likes of upstart Indiana and Big Ten power Wisconsin, A.J. Vinatieri was busy doing what Vinatieri’s do: nailing field goals with the game on the line.
His 22-yard kick vaulted Zionsville to a Regional Championship win over Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, conjuring up memories of his famous father.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: Vinatieri with a game-winning FG in the closing seconds.
Adam Jr. gets it done for @ZCSeagles Zionsville in their 5A Regional win over Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger. #clutch @IHSAA1
? @260sports pic.twitter.com/g6D6TvAlpA
— Brad Brown (@BradBrownTV) November 14, 2020
Despite his pedigree and recent success, Vinatieri still has much work to do heading into the 2021 season.
Teams interested on the recruiting front have included the Wolverines, Purdue, Florida, Cincinnati, Marshall, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois and Boston College, among others.
According to A.J.’s head coach Scott Turnquist last fall, the young kicker “has got potential,” and his work ethic is noteworthy; in other words, he just might be on track to become a trustworthy big-time kicker like his father, who played 24 seasons in the NFL.
“This year we have a group of kids that really want to do well and he’s one of them,” the coach told 247Sports.com.
“He’s one that wants to put in work.”
The elder Vinatieri was also a member of the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) May 27, 2021
Now, his son could be a future Wolverine (and perhaps a future game-winning kicker like Remy Hamilton was against Notre Dame in 1994), although a lot can happen between now and his commitment, specifically other teams finding out about him.
Vinatieri has been flying under the radar, but is a promising talent according to his coaches, offer list and scouting report from NationalKickingRankings.com.
“A.J. has a big leg,” Turnquist said to 247.
“He catches (hold) of punts and they go…He has all the potential in the world and he loves to work at it.”