Sean Brauchle and Derek DePasquale get along very well for two guys fighting over a starting job. That wasn’t always the case.
When the two placekickers arrived at Mississippi State last year – Brauchle from Gulf Coast Community College, DePasquale from the Colorado School of Mines – there was immediate tension between them.
“It was kind of, ‘I don’t like this kid because he’s trying to take my spot,’ and, ‘I don’t like him because he’s got my spot,’” DePasquale said.
Because of an injury to Brauchle, both kickers saw the field, making a combined 16 of 21 field goals (76.2 percent). Now they’re “good friends,” according to DePasquale, even though they remain locked in a battle for the starting job.
Kicker isn’t the only special teams position with depth and/or experience. Punter Heath Hutchins (39.7 per kick, not in SEC’s top 10)is back, and the return duties will be handled by senior Leon Berry and sophomore Chad Bumphis. That duo averaged 25.9 yards per kickoff return last year.
Bumphis, from Tupelo, will likely receive kickoffs, with Berry taking punts.
Special teams is of vital importance to head coach Dan Mullen, which is why he personally oversees the group. Those players are held to the same standard as everyone else, and Mullen expects to see improvement this fall in every aspect of special teams.
“I’m hoping there’s a little more depth at those positions this year,” he said. “Not just the kicking positions, the return positions, but also the coverage units, the kickoff return team.”
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal