Placekickers Wanted

With two seniors in their final season, the MSU coaching staff has had placekickers firmly on its radar. Plenty of options remain for 2009, and some kickers have been talking potential scholarship with MSU, but the Spartans must balance needs with wants.

Late in the fourth quarter, in a neck-and-neck game, coaches don't want to be thinking about special teams depth. And when it comes to steely-nerved performances, practice and experience make a tremendous difference, even for backup kickers.

The MSU football team will be losing a collective nine collegiate years of placekicking experience after Todd Boleski and Matt Haughey graduate this year.

Boleski is a kickoff specialist who could placekick in a pinch; and Haughey, who has been an ever ready field goal backup after some game experience his freshman season, cold placekick in a pinch.

The outstanding Brett Swenson, who proved his gold-plated status in the Wisconsin game this season, will return for his senior season. And walk-on freshman Dan Conroy has a promising leg.

But the depth surely takes a hit, especially on a team whose head coach preaches the vital nature of special teams every opportunity he gets. Mark Dantonio even makes all of his assistants contribute to special teams coaching in a true team effort. So replenishing the well of kickers is quickly becoming a priority.

That's why there are a handful kickers still on the Spartan radar for 2009.

Eric Duale spoke to GSN recently and told us he spent time speaking with Dantonio after a recent bowl practice. The Division 2 all-Ohio place kicker from Medina has ties to the head coach through a family friend and hopes to land a scholarship offer soon. Boston College and a few MAC programs also show strong interest.

Many Big Ten teams have had Kevin Muma on their radar for some time. The Troy product is an all-stater, and although Michigan is considered a favorite, and plenty of others are in pursuit, an opportunity to contribute quickly might lure him to MSU.

Nate Freese was the Division 1 pick on the all-Ohio team. The Strongsville native boots over 80% of his kicks through the endzone for touchbacks and has three offers on the table — Kansas, Air Force and Toledo. MSU has been in regular contact with him and the opportunity to compete right away with a booming leg must be appealing

Indiana's Ryan Stokes, another all-stater, has Grand Valley high on his list, and plenty of interest from others. But playing in the Big Ten at Michigan State, where he visited for a game earlier this season, might have a strong appeal.

Regardless of who may or may not come to MSU, grayshirting is likely in the cards with the reliable leg of Swenson returning.

When a student-athlete grayshirts, he delays enrollment for his first semester, or enrolls part-time, and essentially skips the first season. The following season he begins to count as a scholarship player.

But with only the preferred walk-on Conroy backing Swenson up, recruits are sure to notice the potential opportunity in East Lansing.


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