Mel Tucker

LANSING, East Michigan State finally has a new starting kicker for the first time in six years. The No. 15 Spartans defeated Western Michigan 35-13 in their season opener on Friday night in East Lansing. This came despite the loss of five-year starter Matt Coghlin to graduation.

All five of Stone’s point-after attempts were successful, however, his lone field goal attempt from 44 yards out was wide left. On kickoffs, he was three for six for touchbacks and one for a tackle that was overturned on review for holding.

According to coach Mel Tucker, “he won that competition based on what he did in practice compared to the other guys” during training camp. Sometimes there’s not much of a difference, but you still have to put someone out there.

Chris Sailer Kicking has Stone, a kicker from Dallas’s Highland Park High School, ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the class of 2022. He was the team’s only scholarship kicker when he joined in the summer.

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As a true freshman filling in for an injured Coghlin in the final games of the season, walk-on Stephen Rusnak appeared to be Stone’s main returning competitor. Rusnak went 4-for-5 on extra points, 0-for-1 on field goals, and also had 21 kickoffs. Ben Patton, a walk-on graduate transfer from Auburn, joined Michigan State’s team late in training camp. Last year, he kicked a perfect.600 from the field with a long of 49 yards.

Stone was named the opening-game starter despite competition from several players with collegiate kicking experience.

He’s ambitious and driven to succeed; he’s a natural competitor. He’s proven to us that he can do the work,” Tucker added. That’s why he’s in the wild, you know.

Although Michigan State has a new kicker in Coghlin, the Spartans have not had a successful field goal attempt from anybody other than Coghlin since Michael Geiger in 2016. Stone’s 44-yard effort in the third quarter, with the Spartans ahead by 11, was a wobbler that went wide left, while Rusnak missed the uprights on his lone attempt from the previous season.

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After the swing and a miss, Tucker reported that Stone seemed fine. We have to take it kind of one rep at a time with him and continue to work with him because he’s a young kid and he hasn’t been here that long and that was his first time in a game like that. It looked like he was able to move on to the next “kick” in the process.

Even though it’s his first game, the guys in the Woodshed at night are putting their faith in him because of how well he fares. Not once did he appear to be uncomfortable with the spotlight. Tucker, who just last year signed a 10-year, $95.5 million contract, spoke to the Associated Press about the extra obstacles Black coaches face on their path to the top.

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