”Coach Mullen wants me to be 100%, 42-and-in. I know that’s my job. So that’s what I’m going to be there to do.”
Thus far this season, Mississippi State is still looking for that first made field goal from 42 yards out. Or 40 yards even for that matter. Sobiesk has taken one swing from the designated distance, missing in the Texas A&M game. Logan Cooke tried it at the same range at Kentucky and went wide. And way back in the season-opener, it was Westin Graves taking a shot from 40 yards.
Yet if lack of production from what most regard as ‘routine’ ranges has frustrated fans all fall, these Bulldog specialists aren’t concerned. Least of all sophomore Sobiesk.
He’s confident. Eager even to line it up and take the next swing, from whatever spot.
”If he calls me out there to kick anything past 42 I’m going to do it just like I do every other field goal,” said Sobiesk. “And it will go straight.”
Evidence is building to support Sobiesk’s assurance. He’s made good on the last four chances, including a rather clutch 37-yarder to tie up the Arkansas game and ease lots of Mississippi State stress for the rest of the contest. His 21-yarder against Auburn wasn’t long but was big at the time, too, stemming second-half Tiger momentum.
So if he hasn’t been called on to drive anything really far so far, Sobiesk has been on the field with genuine pressure. Just think back to last year when he had, simply had to be good or the Bulldogs would never have pulled off a comeback and overtime for the Egg Bowl books.
”I had big kicks last year, I’ve had big kicks this year, I’ve had kicks that kind of really didn’t matter in the game in both years. Ultimately I think it’s all the same, it’s just like going out there and kicking an extra point.” At which by the way he is 42-of-44 this year…and that is only one made one-pointer shy of the MSU season record. The mark was set last year by, ironically enough, teammate and P Devon Bell.
So if there haven’t been any big boots, Sobiesk has shown consistency. Not just in games. “I’ve kicked well in practice all year. And I’m just thankful to have the opportunity to get on the field and showcase my talent a little bit this year.”
That practice item is more important than most realize. Mullen is adamant about his guys playing as they practice and vice-versa, which extends to the specialists. Maybe even more than any other position group, in fact. Because each week the competition for depth chart status resumes. Slates may not be completely cleared, but a weekday lapse can cost game day snaps. Or holds, or kicks, or returns, etc.
Sobiesk reports these specialists meet daily for scouting and evaluation and all, before hitting the field. “We’ll do field goal first, then punt, then midway through practice we’ll either do kickoff/kickoff return or punt/punt return. Then Thursday we do all of it.” Sounds like a set system, huh?
Absolutely. Sobiesk has no notable quirks by kicker standards; he even wears the blandest possible footwear, straight black, leaving Cooke to sport multi-colored cleats. Stillll…
”I wouldn’t say I’m superstitious about it, but I’ve definitely kept the same routine every day and I think it’s played pretty well.” So has the internal competition, too. It serves to keep individuals sharp of course but Sobiesk said the unit chemistry has aided everyone’s confidence.
”Westin has a lot of talent, and honestly it could go either way any week in practice. I’ve had weeks where he’s beaten me percentage-wise. Logan has one of the biggest legs I’ve ever seen in my life, he’s definitely NFL material.” That big leg shows in Cooke taking over kickoffs and even punting when Bell was hobbled in October. The true frosh is also the designated, sort-of, long field goal guy if the Lexington trip is any indication.
Maybe, maybe not. At this point Mullen and coordinator Greg Knox are focused on consistency within the more ordinary (i.e. routine everywhere else) ranges. The good word is that distance might, repeat might be extending here in the late season. And Sobiesk has his say in such things in the hour preceding kickoff.
”What will happen is I’ll warm up on both ends and kind of catch the wind and see which way. He’ll ask me how long I can go this way, how long I can go this way. So I’ll tell him before the game and when it comes down to a game decision, it’s a field goal.”
And, and opportunity. One which Sobiesk is increasingly eager for, whatever the distance. It’s not unknown for specialists to avoid the coach’s eye in pressure situations. It’s not conceivable to Sobiesk.
”When he looks over and if he gives me a nod I’m going to run on the field. I’m never going to turn a field goal down, that’s for sure!”