Boleski or Swenson? You make the call

When Brett Swenson made his verbal commitment to Michigan State this fall, it looked like the place kicking job was his to lose. After all, MSU had really suffered on special teams in 2005, but a funny thing happened during spring practice.

Seventh in a series profiling the Michigan State 2006 football team.

EAST LANSING - When Brett Swenson (GSN rating: 65) made his verbal commitment to Michigan State this fall, it looked like the place kicking job was his to lose. After all, MSU had really suffered on special teams in 2005.

Kicker John Goss had missed as many field goals as he made and when head coach John L. Smith tried to call on Kyle Mayer in overtime against Michigan, Mayer begged off.

Smith held a 'gong show' style try-out that brought freshman Matt Haughey onto the squad, but Haughey fared almost as poorly as Goss.

Goss graduated from the University and went into private business, apparently leaving the door wide open for Swenson. Left with only kickoff specialist Todd Boleski on the roster for spring drills, something strange happened. Boleski started booming kicks through the uprights.

In the spring scrimmage Boleski went five-of-six, booting field goals of 32, 32, 40,47, and 55 yards drawing hoots and hollers from his teammates and boosting Smith's confidence in the former walk-on who had never attempted a field goal in a collegiate game.

Boleski (GSN rating: 69) said the reason he couldn't make any kicks was because he was concentrating on the job he was defined - as a kickoff specialist. But that changed when the long Michigan winter set in.

"In the winter, we were stuck in the dome and I couldn't do kickoffs," Boleski told the Detroit Free Press, so my focus was my field goals. So definitely, I'd say my consistency has improved greatly."

So much so that he doesn't fear a competition with the heralded freshman Swenson. "I invite the competition. I think that it makes us all better. We go out there and push one another then we just go from there."

Boleski said, unlike some kickers, he never thinks about the pressure of the moment. "Once you're out there, you're out there and you're focused. You're not worried about what might happen if I miss this. I'm just going out there trying to do my job time after time."

Despite the reassuring words, nothing will be settled until one player or the other settles it on the field. Smith says the two are very close in the fall competition, so much so that he may use a 'situational kicker' setup.

"Very, very definitely there could be that," said Smith "I don't want to be premature in saying that, but that's almost what is sorting out."

If so, Swenson (freshman are not allowed to speak to the media) would likely handle the shorter kicks - because he has a shorter, more compact kicking stroke with an emphasis on accuracy - while Boleski would take the longer kicks because of his extremely strong leg.

If the Idaho game goes according to plan, both kickers are likely to get field goal attempts. Those tries will go along way towards cementing one or the other as "the guy."

In Tuesday's scrimmage, Swenson went 5-for-5 (19, 36, 30, 49 and 27 yards) while Boleski went 2-of-3(50 and 52 yards).

Two solid kickers? Smith almost has to pinch himself to think about such a dilemma. But don't worry, he won't allow himself to relax until one of them make a clutch kick in a conference game.

Swenson kicking video

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