Clearly, Sobiesk intends to be that guy. Based on this August’s roster the sophomore certainly has the straightest shot. Kick, rather. With Devon Bell focusing fully on his impressive punting as well as kickoff work, Sobiesk is now the club’s ranking placekicker.
His resume isn’t all that long; three makes in six attempts as a 2013 freshman and 15-of-16 work on PATs. Still Sobiesk has the head start on other camp contenders Westin Graves and J.J. McGrath, not least after the strong spring statements of support from Coach Dan Mullen.
The same coach who has popularized ‘Sobes’ as this Hattiesburg native’s name. Sobiesk reports this is now his locker room label too. “I’m not real sure where it came from! But I don’t mind it. I guess it’s easier than Sobiesk, whatever!”
There’s no short-cuts to doing the job though. Nor will there be shortage of speculation over this position based not just on erratic 2013 results (10-of-21 by three Bulldog booters total) but enough observed spring scrimmage misses. To be fair it needs noting Mullen doesn’t pick a kicker in April. So Sobiesk and Co. understand there’s plenty opportunity left for impressing the coach in August.
And having actually done it for-real on the field, this kicker really can keep calm about the perceived pressures. Joke about it even. “It’s just my personality! I guess it’s just the way I was raised,” he said.
“I mean you can’t let it really get to you. You’ve got supporters everywhere, that’s something you have to always remember. You’re out there doing your thing and if you give it your best and stay confident in yourself everything is going to be just fine.”
More than a healthy humor helps Sobiesk keep calm in camp. Remember, it was hit foot knocking through the all-important 36-yard field goal that tied up the Egg Bowl last November. He may have missed a 39-yarder on the final play to win, but did connect on the one that counted most. And overtime only allowed an even more remarkable finish in favor of Mississippi State after all.
So he’s felt the real heat before and that counts for kickers the same as anyone else. Just as shedding the rookie label to be a veteran sophomore.
“It’s I guess experience. The same thing as our quarterbacks out there, if you play one game then the next game clearly you should be a little bit better.” Sobiesk now knows how to handle the after-math of both a big make and a big miss. This is another August edge Sobiesk should have over the others, since Mullen says duplicating game pressures in practice is impossible.
During the summer months Sobiesk didn’t need pressure to hone some still-young skills. Though he says there weren’t many technical items to his private kicking drills away from coaching eyes. “Just trying to be consistent. Keeping my fundamentals, muscle-memory basically would be a way to explain it.” Now fans might think this wouldn’t do anything to prepare a player, especially a kicker, for the frenzy of a real game.
Actually, it does. Because the way Sobiesk describes his duty, he could just as easily be booting in an empty stadium as he does surrounded by howling thousands.
”Honestly it’s a pressure situation, whenever you’re out on the field you really don’t think of the fans. You don’t think about anybody looking at you. It’s you, the snapper, and the holder and you do what you’ve done a thousand times over and over again.”
Right, nothing out of the ordinary, whether he’s lining-up a third-quarter kick to pad the lead or a do-or-die attempt for the tie. Regardless, “You have to think of it as another kick. Everything is an extra point. If you hit everything like it is an extra point you should never miss. Ever.”
Speaking about his ‘team’ Sobiesk says that so far during early Bulldog camp Dak Prescott is holding his placekicks first. “And I like that.” Not only because the quarterback has the sure hands, but the sheer assurance Prescott brings to anything he does with this squad. Combine him with the boringly-reliable delivery of Winston Chapman and the equation should be complete.
“That also plays into a confidence thing. If you have confidence in your snapper and your holder you should never worry.” Though one wonders if having the top Dog placing the ball puts just a tad more intensity on results, compared to kicking out of the hold of say former teammate Baker Swedenburg. Kickers will cut other kickers a little more slack, right”
“Yeah, but (Dak) is our leader and I know I definitely listen to him.”
Sobiesk listened to his coach too when told he would be wearing number 41 this year rather than the freshman 64. “No, they asked me if I could change my number. That’s fine, I don’t really care.”
Because really, the only ‘number’ Sobiesk cares about at the moment is one…as in number-one on the placekicker depth chart when game week arrives.
“It’s me and Westin and J.J. McGrath and we’re all three I’d say very good kickers. You can’t be bad kicking in the SEC West. Really its’ going to come down to who can do it when it matters most in pressure situations and scrimmages. If we all give it our best somebody will definitely show out and I guess we’ll see at the end of camp what we want to do with it.”