Spartans hoping for improved special teams

The 6-foot-6 Boleski holds an important key to the kicking game should he be given the starting nod, but the questions arises, since Boleski handled kickoff duties for State part of last season, why wasn't his field goal kicking prowess discovered before now?

EAST LANSING - The last time GSN spoke to Michigan State special teams coach Ben Sirmans was October 10th. The Spartans were beginning a bye week after suffering another crushing loss to the Wolverines in overtime.

Sirmans and the entire Spartan coaching staff were upbeat and optimistic that they could fix their problems after then starting kicker John Goss narrowly missed a 37-yard field goal in overtime and didn't connect on a 23-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter that would have given the Spartans their only lead.

Little did the Spartans know that their special teams were at the beginning of a tailspin that would contribute to their losing five of their last six games to end the season, missing a bowl game appearance by one win.

The Michigan game would also cause John L. Smith to lose some confidence in Goss which increase exponentially with every missed field goal that followed. Eventually, Smith brought in freshman Matt Haughey to a desperate attempt to solidfy the kicking game, but Haughey wasn't much beter.

Aside from their field goal woes, the Spartans coverage on punt returns and kickoffs was also poor. The Spartans allowed Ohio State to return three punts for 40 yards and great field position and an OSU field goal block led directly to a change in momentum at halftime of yet another crushing defeat.

With last season over, its not only spring time, but time for Sirmans to talk about his special teams outlook for a new season, as the Spartans finish spring practices on Friday.

"There are always things you have to get better at," said Sirmans. "We threw a few schemes at them to get on film to see how the guys would execute things properly," he said. Redshirt freshman kicker Todd Boleski was a stunning surprise. His impressive outing in the first open scrimmage of the spring, hitting a 35, 47, and 55-yard field goals, set up what looks to be a duel between himself and incoming freshman Brett Swenson from St.Thomas Aquinas HS in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Sirmans was impressed with Boleski's performance, saying "we wanted to put Boleski in there in a game situation and a game type atmosphere with the crowd here and all. He's got a strong leg, its just a matter of him continuing to work his technique. We wanted to get the kickers in live situations and we have to find a guy we can rely on."

As for the kicking coverage, Sirmans stresses that the special teams will not be comprised of strictly reserve players but with the players who can do the best.

"Mostly we will use whatever guys we think can give us the best chance," said Sirmans. "If those are the guys that can cover better than we will have those guys out there. If a starter and reserves are equally as good, than we will use the reserve."

One thing MSU does have is great depth and the usual speed from wideouts and backs who can return punts and kickoffs.

Newcomers like wideouts T.J. Williams and Devin Thomas could make their mark on special teams this season should they be given a chance.

"Special teams are great for us, from a talent standpoint; there are some teams with better talent than us, so we have to make sure we are sharp and aggressive," Sirmans continued. "Our guys are going to understand how much urgency each game takes."

Overall, every new football season carries great optimism, but what the MSU players have shown in spring practices is something to be talked about until the Spartans kick off things this fall.

The 6-foot-6 Boleski holds an important key to the kicking game should he be given the starting nod, but the questions arises, since Boleski handled kickoff duties for State part of last season, why wasn't his field goal kicking prowess discovered before now?

Had a few more field goals been converted last season, the Spartans might have been in a bowl game instead of stewing over yet another loss season.


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