Zoltan Mesko was Michigan’s best player in 2008 and if Rich Rodriguez wants to get his spread going and find success, he’s likely Michigan’s best, or most valuable player in 2009. Mesko has so far averaged 42.0 yards including a 68 yard punt against Ohio State. Barring injury, he’ll become Michigan’s all-time leader in career punts and total yardage. He seems to be the only positive news coming out of Ann Arbor these days and is the de facto face of the Wolverines – Playboy’s preseason all-America team, the Guy Award watch-list, pre-season all-Big Ten, and he made national news for his academic prowess – a 16 year class attendance streak.
Watching Mesko reminds me a lot of watching Mat McBriar when he was booming punts at Hawaii. Both foreign-born players are extremely accurate, have big legs, and are on the field a little more than might be comfortable. McBriar is an Aussie turned pro-bowl punter currently playing on an 11 million dollar contract (including signing bonus) for the Dallas Cowboys. At Hawaii he averaged 42.22 yards per punt over his career, with a 73 yard boom against Tulane.
McBriar had a lot of backup in June Jones’ run and shoot system (the spread is a derivative), but he was definitely a valuable component to Hawaii’s success. A common criticism to both systems is a quick stalling drive (painfully evident in Rodriguez’s 2008 campaign). If Jones’ offense quickly stalled, McBriar could help mitigate the damage by pinning the opponent deep and giving Hawaii an instant edge.
If Michigan can start to move the ball out of the first set of downs consistently, but continues to stall, Mesko – one of the most accurate punters in the NCAA – could turn the tide for the Wolverines by pinning opponents deep. A small point? Maybe. A small edge? More field for offenses to cover will give Michigan’s defense a chance to grow, and give them play-making and offensive miscue opportunities. The Rodriguez and spread are not proven at Michigan, yet. Everything and everyone is still in transition and growing, except for Zoltan Mesko who is a proven and stalwart performer, at Michigan.