KENT: It wasn’t a kick scrimmage in the traditional sense, but even with a tweak of the Kent State football team’s Saturday morning practice, the kickers still got in their fair share of work during the two-hour session.
“This [first week of fall camp] has probably been a lot more of a physical camp than what they’re used to and we’ve really been banging a whole lot this week,” new KSU coach Paul Haynes said. “I just didn’t want to kill ’em today. But I wanted to get the same [kick scrimmage] production. We just did it all in one period.”
Even without the dueling head-to-head competition that the scrimmage typically features, KSU’s special teams still appear solid despite the loss of steady kicker Freddy Cortez to graduation.
Leading the way was sophomore Anthony Melchiori, who as a freshman last season became one of the Mid-American Conference’s best punters.
Melchiori has added kickoffs and likely at least a portion of the field-goal kicking duties to his resume. Haynes would like to employ a dual kicking system with Melchiori and redshirt freshman Brad Miller.
“[Melchiori’s] doing good,” Haynes said. “But the key is Brad Miller is getting better, too. So that takes a little pressure off Anthony to not have to kick everywhere. Hopefully, Brad continues to do well because then he can be the 25 [yards]-and-in guy and Anthony’s the guy for anything past that.”
Toward the end of Saturday’s practice, Melchiori lined up for five consecutive field-goal attempts. He easily booted the first two field goals from 22 and 32 yards before missing his third attempt from 42 yards.
The last two Melchiori made came from 47 yards out, but also with the added pressure of all his teammates huddled around him yelling to create stadium “noise.”
“I liked getting everyone around me yelling and getting fired up,” he said. “It just kind of made it more realistic for what’s coming. We’ve got those big games — Penn State and LSU — on our schedule and it’s not going to be quiet by any means. It’s going to be very loud and you have to be able to overcome the noise and adversity and still kick under those kinds of circumstances.”
Adding additional duties doesn’t seem to have fazed Melchiori, a nod to his prep days when he played offense, defense and special teams as a standout at Aurora High School.
“Just taking on all the roles, obviously I’ll refer back to high school when I never left the field,” he said. “So, I know what it’s like to have to be able to play a ton of roles.”
It also helps that Melchiori served as the Flashes’ reserve kicker last season and then spent time this offseason working out with Miller on small technique adjustments.
“I backed up Freddy last year, so I did get some work in with the twos,” Melchiori said. “Then over the summer, Brad I worked out all the time here at [Dix] Stadium on days when we didn’t have class. Now, Brad and I brought that into camp and I think it’s really helped. He’s doing a great job kicking. And I feel personally, I’m doing the best I ever have on field goals.”
Melchiori has also worked on the mental side of kicking due to his growing responsibilities.
“Say I miss a field goal in a game, I need to be able to not bring that emotion over into punting and let it affect me there,” he said. “I think I’ve been doing a really good job with that this camp. I’ve been able to maintain my composure if I miss a kick and then go over to punt and do what I do without letting the miss stay in my mind and affect the punt.”
Haynes said he thinks Melchiori is one of the best punters in the country.
“He’s a weapon for us, for sure,” Haynes said.
The Flashes got a scare Thursday when fifth-year senior guard Pat McShane injured his right knee in practice and had to be carted off the field. It’s not yet known how bad the injury is, as the swelling needs to go down some before more tests can be done.
Losing McShane for any length of time would be a huge blow to a thin and inexperienced offensive line that’s already absorbed the loss of left tackle Brian Winters (fourth-round pick by the New York Jets) and senior guard Josh Kline (who signed as a free agent with the New England Patriots).
“We just have to wait and see till next week when he goes to the doctor to see what happens,” Haynes said. “For now, we’re still moving a couple around, including [redshirt freshman Alex] Nielsen and [sophomore Jim] Katusha. But the depth there is not good. So, we’ll just have to be careful for the rest of camp and be smart.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/sports.abj.