MSU seeks improvement in field goal kicking

BY LOGAN LOWERY
DAILY JOURNAL
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State was the second worst field goal kicking team in the country last season.
The Bulldogs saw just 10 of their 21 attempts split the uprights in 2013 finishing just ahead of UTEP for 123rd in that category.
MSU’s primary kicker last fall, Devon Bell, was 6 of 14 and has since been regulated to punting and kickoff duties. Now the placekicking responsibilities fall at the feet of three walk-ons.
Sophomore Evan Sobiesk kicked in seven games last season and while newcomers Westin Graves and J.J. McGrath are also battling for the job.
“We are all three very good kickers,” Sobiesk said. “You can’t be bad kicking in the SEC West. It’s going to come down to who can do it when it matters the most in pressure situations.”
Sobiesk converted three of his six field goal tries last fall with a long of 38-yards against South Carolina.
The Hattiesburg native also booted the game-tying 36-yard field goal with 2:21 remaining in regulation of the Egg Bowl but missed a potential game-winning 39-yard try as time expired in the fourth quarter.
“It’s a pressure situation whenever you’re out on the field,” Sobiesk said. “You really don’t think of the fans looking at you. It’s you, the snapper and the holder. You just do what you’ve done a thousand times over and over again.”
Sobiesk made just 4 of 10 during three scrimmages inside Davis Wade Stadium this past spring but is hopeful he can turn things around this fall. He has spent the summer working on both accuracy and consistency.
“If I kick the way that I know I can kick and stay confident in myself and have a good camp then I will be the guy,” Sobiesk said.
Graves connected on two of his four kicks during spring scrimmages and is trying to win the job as a true freshman out of Jackson Prep.
McGrath transferred to MSU during the summer after redshirting at Michigan as a freshman last fall. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound left-footer was a preferred walk-on for the Wolverines.
Great unknown
“All of them are extremely inexperienced at the placekicking position,” said MSU coach Dan Mullen. “We’ll see how it all plays out in training camp. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to simulate the pressure you are going to feel on a Saturday in the stadium. You can try as hard as you want to simulate it, but there is no simulation for it.
“We’ll see how they perform during training camp and then in the season. I don’t know if we’ll have starter Week 1, because that’s our first opportunity to put some of those other guys in where they are playing live in a stadium.”
logan.lowery@journalinc.com