'We're going to give him confidence': Mark Dantonio continues to back kicker amid struggles
Matt Coghlin is Michigan State's kicker.
He is now and will be for the foreseeable future in the eyes of MSU Head Coach Mark Dantonio — or, at least until someone else proves they can get the job done.
But until then, Dantonio will continue to supply all the confidence that Coghlin needs in the most struggling stretch in his college career.
Coghlin — a junior from Cincinnati, Ohio — was as steady as college kickers come heading into this year, finishing last season 18-for-22 on field goals and continuing his high success rate in MSU's games against Tulsa and Western Michigan, going a perfect seven for seven. Since then, Coghlin's struggles have been well-documented, going 4-for-10 in the Spartans' last four games.
Dantonio said that the best thing he can do for his struggling specialist is to make sure he keeps his head high.
“You can say, ‘Hey, it’s okay,' and you can give a young man confidence," Dantonio said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
"The worst thing that I could do right now is ... pressure him. Especially in practice, we have to do some different things in that perspective. But, from my perspective, we need to give a guy confidence. I’ve seen him make kicks. ... I’m going to remain confident in him until somebody else takes over that position, but somebody has to take it over, too. That's the other part of this. But, I believe he can make the kicks, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
After missing all three of his field goal attempts against Arizona State, including one with a chance to send the game into overtime, Coghlin somewhat rebounded, making one of his two attempts at Northwestern. Dantonio said he noticed a mechanics problem with Coghlin's head coming up too early.
Coghlin then finished 2-for-3 against Indiana, missing a 43-yard attempt on the Spartans' opening drive.
With Coghlin's most recent miss, a 27-yard field goal in MSU's 34-10 loss to Ohio State, Dantonio believed that it was interior pressure that affected his kicker.
"He got pressured. If you have a guy that is 6-foot-5, (265-pounds) in your face, it might bother you a little bit if you were writing a column or something," Dantonio said. “There is a lot of pressure. ... There's enough pressure out there to go around for everybody, whether you're a corner making a play on a guy running down the field at 100 miles an hour, you know, full throttle. But, if he makes him cut back, the guys behind him are going to make the tackle. So, theres a lot of different things going on out there.
"I've always asked our players to do the very best they can do and aggressively attack a situation, and if they do that, I'm going to believe in them and go with that and take the hit.”
One advantage that Dantonio has that many college programs don't is a coach like special teams analyst Shayne Graham, who is in his second season on Dantonio's staff. Dantonio said that his 15-year professional football experience makes him a "guy that can sit, talk and be that in-house psychologist to some degree" for Coghlin in hopes of working the junior out of his funk.
The Spartans, who travel to Madison, Wisconsin this Saturday to play the eighth-ranked Badgers (3:30 p.m., BTN), hope this is the game Coghlin can get back on track.
And if not, Dantonio said he's going to give his player the trust and support he needs regardless.
“I think the snaps have been good, the holds have been good, the laces are up, done a good job of those things. ... I just think it’s very important to stay confident in him. It's a tough job," Dantonio said of Coghlin. "I mean, all eyes are on you, and easier said than done sometimes. I do think he’s got to make them, but we’re going to give him confidence.”
Following MSU's game in Madison, the Spartans will go on their first bye week of the season, right before hosting No. 10 Penn State.
Not only will this be a chance to get some much needed mid-season rest, but also a chance for some of MSU's injured parts to get a little healthier.
Following the Spartans' game against the Nittany Lions, MSU will go back on bye before hosting Illinois on Nov. 9.