Why new Mississippi State football kickers could be the difference in 2022

STARKVILLE — Asking "what if?" can be agonizing for football fans. But for the Mississippi State faithful, it's hard to reflect on 2021 and not wonder how many games the Bulldogs could have won with better kickers.

Brandon Ruiz went 5-of-9 on field goals, including two misses in a three-point loss at Arkansas. Nolan McCord was 9-of-16 with a miss in that Arkansas loss, two in an Egg Bowl loss and one in a three-point loss against LSU.

Adding to the agony is the 5-of-9 performance Mississippi State's kickers had in Saturday's scrimmage. But transfers Massimo Biscardi and Ben Raybon along with freshman Jordan Kennedy ensure last season isn't a reflection of what's ahead.

"That's last year," Raybon said. "That's in the past. We're here to do our thing this year."

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Biscardi joins MSU after four seasons with Coastal Carolina where he went 46-of-57 on field goal attempts. He had a long of at least 50 in each season, though he missed a 50-yard attempt in MSU's scrimmage.

Biscardi said the entire Mississippi State staff followed him immediately after he entered the portal, which he felt was an instant message of support.

"It was an easy decision," Biscardi said.

Coastal Carolina place kicker Massimo Biscardi (29) kicks the eventual game-winning field goal during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Louisiana-Lafayette in Lafayette, La., Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Kieu)

Raybon said he was betting on himself and wanted to "shoot for the stars" by entering the portal after three seasons at Northern Colorado. He started at Fort Lewis College before spending a season at Garden City Community College.

When an SEC program called, Raybon was in.

"I couldn't be happier with where I ended up," Raybon said.

Biscardi is a front-runner for the place kicking job while Raybon is expected to handle kickoffs, but Kennedy is making a push. The freshman made both field goal attempts in the scrimmage while Biscardi missed 3-of-5 and Raybon split his two.

However, one of Biscardi's misses came with the laces facing him.

Coach Mike Leach showed last season he isn't afraid to start a freshman or a non-scholarship player. After the three misses at Arkansas, Leach called for an open tryout in hopes of finding a new kicker.

Though MSU continued with McCord and Ruiz, once the season ended, kicker became a priority in the portal for Eric Mele who moved from coaching running backs to special teams.

"We're just kickers," Biscardi said. "We've got one job."

Stefan Krajisnik is the Mississippi State beat writer for the Clarion Ledger. Contact him at skrajisnik@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter @skrajisnik3

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Can new Mississippi State football transfers change kicking issues from last season