East Lansing — As Michigan State works to sort out its depth chart over the final week of preseason camp, one position is starting to get a bit more attention.
That’s placekicker, where the Spartans are replacing four-year starter Michael Geiger. It doesn’t get the same amount of fanfare, but there might not be a bigger decision Mark Dantonio and his staff will make as Michigan State prepares for the season opener Sept. 2 against Bowling Green.
With so many games coming down to the wire, getting consistent kicking is key and the Spartans have quite the competition. Redshirt freshman Matt Coghlin might be the leader at this point, but fifth-year senior Brett Scanlon and true freshman Cole Hahn are also in the mix as well as freshman Jack McKenna, who also is punting.
Special teams coordinator Mark Snyder said late last week things were too close to call.
“It’s still a competition,” Snyder said. “They’re working hard and everybody’s competing, that’s all we’re asking for.”
Coghlin, who redshirted last season, spoke with the media this week and said the competition has been intense and that it will benefit all the kickers in the long run.
“I think it’s good,” Coghlin said. “If you had just two kickers here, that could be a (bad) situation if both go down, but I see it as more competition and it making me better.
“Competition is always good. Everyone is working to make everyone better. The bigger the competition, a little more pressure, it just makes bigger stakes and makes everyone better.”
Coghlin and Scanlon have the benefit of being part of the program. Coghlin was a top recruit in 2016 and redshirted last season while Scanlon is a former transfer from Western Michigan who was a standout prep kicker at Dowagiac Union.
They also learned their share from Geiger and Kevin Cronin, the kickoff specialist who also graduated.
“The two seniors, Geiger and Cronin, they were big mentors for me,” Coghlin said. “And having a redshirt year I think really helped, just getting the mind games right, and then just the speed and seeing the stadium for actually kicking.”
Whether that all leads to the sort of production Geiger had remains to be seen. Geiger finished his career second in scoring in program history with 357 points while kicking in huge games like the Big Ten championship, the Rose Bowl and the College Football Playoff.
Geiger’s last-second kick to beat Ohio State in 2015 is still one of Michigan State’s iconic moments and Coghlin hopes he has the mettle to handle the pressure-packed moments.
“There’s obviously going to be little butterflies,” Coghlin said. “(With) 75,000 people, that will be really cool, but I think I’ll be cool and composed and hopefully just all the practice I put in will pay off.”
Until Coghlin gets the call, though, he’ll spend the final week of camp working with the other kickers to sort out the competition.
“Working hard every day, just doing the best I can day in and day out with consistency,” Coghlin said. “I’m getting reps, everyone is getting some reps, doing good. Just working hard, working on accuracy, working on consistency.”