Kicker Westin Graves completed his junior season in style connecting on a 36 yard field goal that proved to be the margin of victory in the St. Petersburg Bowl as the Bulldogs won by the narrowest of advantages, 21-20.
In the moments following the final horn, Graves met with the media and shared his thoughts on the game and the season as a whole. The Jackson Prep product revealed that he had battled an ailing back down the stretch. The personable Graves will likely be out for much of spring practice as he takes the steps necessary to address that nagging ailment in hopes of returning to good health for the fall.
Graves converted 11 of 19 field goal attempts during the 2016 season.with a long of 48 yards coming in the season opener against South Alabama.
Sources also share that junior punter Logan Cooke may be the first Bulldog football player to suit up for the Diamond Dawgs since the early '80s, when Glen Young served double duty for Coaches Emory Bellard and Ron Polk.
Cooke, a former All-Star pitcher at Columbia Academy, last pitched this summer in the Cotton States League in New Albany, Mississippi. As a high school senior, Cooke turned in a 3-1 record with a 2.23 ERA. The MAIS All-Stater faced 101 batters and struck out 39.
Despite devoting his best efforts to football over the course of the last three years, Cooke has done his part to keep his arm in shape in hopes of possibly playing baseball once again.
Cooke missed most of the month of November on the football field after aggravating an earlier injury against Texas A&M. Kody Schexnayder filled in, while Cooke took time off to heal. The walk on from John Curtis (LA) supplied his best efforts in the regular season finale on the road at Oxford, where Schexnayder punted three times for 140 yards averaging 46.7 yards per kick,
Schnexnayder should receive the lion's share of the punting reps this spring as returning sophomores Brad Wall and Jace Cristmann handle the kick off and place kicking duties.
The future of Bulldog kicking may be directly impacted by what takes place this weekend as U.S. Army All-Americans punter Tucker Day and kicker Joseph Bulovas take official visits to Starkville. Day is currently undeclared, but Bulovas made a pledge to Georgia Tech in June.
The pair have been long time friends according to Day, who hails from Brentwood, Tennessee.
"I used to always see (Bulovas) at the Chris Sailer kicking camps," Day said. "He used to be somebody I just competed against, but we ended up being friends. He's my buddy."
The pair spent last week in San Antonio, Texas as they took part in the practice sessions and events leading up to the U.S. Army All-American game. While Day was selected as his team's punter, the Brentwood High School (TN) standout reports that he can handle the responsibilities of all kicking disciplines.
"A lot of people have talked to me about being a punter, but I can do it all," Day said. "I did all of that in high school, so I feel confident that I could handle it in college. I just want to help the team in as many ways as I can."
Mississippi State has not extended an offer to Day just yet, but there is talk of one materializing down the road.
"I know that they're looking for a guy to take over when Logan Cooke leaves and they want to have someone there should he have another injury," Day said. "They have talked with me about possibly having a scholarship once Logan is gone. They have a plan for me should I decide to go there."
Day currently holds offers from Army, Colorado State, Illinois, Rutgers and San Diego State among others. With official visits set for Mississippi State and Rutgers, Day is working towards a college decision.
"I want big football and a great education," Day said. "I am looking at both football and academics. I plan on majoring in business, so I am looking at which schools have good business schools."
The Bulldogs have some spots available in the 2017 class. If one of those grants is used to secure the services of a kicker remains to be seen, but some of the nation's best specialists will be in Starkville this weekend getting to learn about their options in Maroon and White.