Mississippi State’s special teams took a hit during the offseason when kicker Evan Sobiesk announced that he was leaving the program in order to attend dental school.
Sobiesk’s move left the competition with senior Devon Bell and walk-ons Westin Graves and Bryce Brown. Graves missed his only attempt last season while Bell hasn’t kicked since 2013.
Finding a consistent kicker has plagued the Bulldogs for the past few seasons and it may be more of the same this fall. I was a little surprised that kicking didn’t hamper them any more than it did last season.
Bell struggled in the role during his freshman and sophomore seasons making 20-of-35 field goal tries. He has always possessed a strong leg and his accuracy was improved this past spring.
I know placekicking isn’t something Bell is entirely fond or what he was recruited for but could be the team’s best option.
Graves is pretty accurate from short range but the sophomore from Jackson Prep does not have the same range as Bell. He did convert 4-of-5 extra point attempts late in games last season.
Brown is a bit of a wild card in the kicking equation. He initially accepted a preferred walk-on position at Arkansas State but transferred to MSU when school started last fall. He was ineligible to play last season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Bell is also back at the team’s punter, a role he’s had for the past three seasons. He has been consistent throughout his career as a punter and I’d expect that to continue during his final campaign.
Logan Cooke had his redshirt burned just before kickoff of the Texas A&M game last year and kicked well as a true freshman both on punts and kickoffs. His lone field goal try and fake punt pass were different stories.
Cooke has the strongest leg on the team and could have an NFL future ahead of him if he continues to improve. As talented as he is, if it were my team I’d try to redshirt him this year and get that year of eligibility back so he’d have three full years left once Bell graduates.
Winston Chapman has quietly had a strong career and that’s a good thing. The rising senior long snapper has been on target and the last thing you want is for the average fan to be familiar with your name in that role.
Chapman is backed up by junior walk-on Hunter Bradley. After two major knee injuries as a tight end, it’s nice to see him still on the field and finding a way to contribute.
I like what the Bulldogs did at kick and punt returner this spring. I always felt Robert Johnson was too big and too slow to be an effective kick returner and had no idea why he was used in that way when there were so many other options on the roster (i.e. Justin Cox, Jamerson Love, etc…).
Will Redmond, Fred Ross and Donald Gray emerged as the leading candidates to return both kicks and punts. I know Jamoral Graham was a disaster with muffs as a punt returner as a true freshman last season but he looked improved in that area as well.