Big Questions for Spring: Starting K/P?

Spring Practice begins Wed. March 26.

The 2008 Fresno State football team begins spring practice this Wednesday, and the anticipation is high. Fresh off a 9-4 season, the ‘Dogs have already been ranked by numerous media outlets as a preseason top 25 team. However, FS ended 07 with about 72 healthy bodies and start 08 in the same boat minus 15 seniors. BB.C answers some big questions facing the ‘Dogs this spring.

The Bulldogs return 14 offensive players – including nine full-time starters – that started at least one game last season. Moreover, that does not include 2006 leading receiver Chastin West, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. On the other side of the ball, the numbers are not as impressive but nine defensive players – including seven full-time starters – started at least one game in 2007. But the big question is…

Who is going to kick the ball?

Fresno State loses all-everything placekicker Clint Stitser, as well as backup kicker and starting punter Kyle Zimmerman to graduation. RFr.

Kevin Goessling (6-0, 200) was a highly touted kicker out of Orange County when he signed his LOI last year. rated him the 4th best kicker in California, and he was widely considered one of the top ten kickers in the nation for the class of 2007. The former Anaheim (Calif.) Servite K is also considered the best to ever for the Friars.

Chris Sailer of Chris Sailer Kicking said back when Goessling committed to Fresno State, "Kevin is a great kicker. He is going to be an outstanding fit for Fresno State."

Goessling was 31-for-31 on PAT's and was 7-for-9 on field goals, kicking a long of 41 yards, and nailing 3-for-3 in the regular season finale in 2006.

However, Coach Pat Hill has never started a frosh kicker in his12 years as the Bulldog Head Coach. Thrice in his tenure, he has turned to a sophomore – Jeff Hanna in 1997, Asen Asparuhov in 2000, and Clint Stitser in 2005. Hanna and Asparuhov rank sixth and third, respectively, all-time in scoring in Bulldog history.

The last freshman kicker to kick in a game was Johan Lyssand in 1994. Derek Mahoney (1990-93) was the last four-starter and is the leading scorer in Bulldog history.

Considering a kicker has led the Bulldogs in scoring in eight out of Hill's 11 years, including last season, the position is one of utmost importance. Goessling has displayed great accuracy in practice, but he has some huge shoes to fill.

P Robert Malone (6-2, 220), on the other hand, has a few games under his belt. The sophomore was able to medical redshirt in 2006 after being thrust into starting role as a true freshman in place of injured Sr. Mike Lingua. Last season, he spent the entire year as the placeholder on PAT's and field goals. This season he is expected to handle the starting punt duties, something he struggled with the first three games of his career.

Malone punted 20 times for 744 yards for a respectable 37.2 ypp in 2006. However, his hang-time was not up to par. None more evident than against Oregon, when the Ducks had more punt return yards in that one game than the ‘Dogs gave up in the entire 2005 season.

Special Teams Coach John Baxter was very high on Malone coming out of Riverside (Calif.) Martin Luther King. It was Baxter's decision to not pursue U.S. Army All-American Kyle Peterson, who had high interest in Fresno State, but instead recruit Malone.

Malone holds King's school record in the shot put. He also starred on the defensive line. But his leg strength is what caught the attention of DI colleges. It is by far the strongest ever for a Bulldog punter. He had a long of 53 yards in 2006.

Next big question answered, who starts spring as the No. 1 tailback?

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