Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football fall camp: Kicking competition between Blake Lucas, Mike Caggiano nearing decision

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Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian

Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian

Following the Massachusetts football team’s conclusion of fall camp Thursday, one starting position remains up in the air entering the weekend.

UMass has yet to name a starter at placekicker, as senior Blake Lucas and freshman Mike Caggiano continued to earn equal reps in week three of camp. Minutemen coach Mark Whipple acknowledged that Lucas is slightly in front of Caggiano, but no decision will be made until early next week.

According to UMass special teams coordinator Mark Michaels, both kickers have benefitted from the competition and have improved throughout camp, making for a game week decision.

“It’s made them both better. We brought in Mike to challenge and compete and he’s done that,” Michaels said. “We’re happy with the progress that they’ve made. (The competition) has been spirited and they’ve both done well.”

Michaels said the decision of who will start when the Minutemen travel to Colorado for its season opener on Sept. 12 will come either Sunday or Monday.

“We’re going to have to sit down and talk as a staff, and I’m going to have to talk to coach Whipple in depth about that,” Michaels said. “We’ve been very thorough in evaluating all their kicks as far as their get-offs, kicks made, not made, all of it.

“Sometimes it’s close and then we just have to make that final call.”

Lucas, the incumbent placekicker and kickoff specialist, is coming off an inconsistent 2014 season where he went 2-for-4 on field goal attempts and finished 24-for-25 on extra points. In his three years at UMass, Lucas has converted on 12-of-22 field goals.

The Cochran, Georgia native was part of an inconsistent unit that combined to finish 6-for-11 on field goals and 37-for-44 in point-after-attempts last season. Along with Lucas, Matthew Wylie and new starting punter Logan Laurent also earned reps last season in a three-man rotation.

Despite last year’s struggles, Lucas said he’s confident heading into the new season and was satisfied with his performance in camp.

“I’ve been hitting the ball great this whole camp. I’m at about 85 percent right now and that’s great for me,” said Lucas, after hitting 11-of-12 field goals from various spots on an empty field at McGuirk Stadium following the conclusion of Thursday’s practice.

“I hope I get to start but we’ll see. Mike’s been hitting the ball great too so it’s been a good competition so far.”

While Lucas just finished his fourth fall camp at UMass, it was Caggiano’s first taste of college level football. Caggiano said he’s embraced the opportunity to make an immediate impact as a freshman.

“Coming in here on my first day I had to get used to some things. I’m definitely a little more comfortable now that I’ve been here a couple of weeks,” Caggiano said. “Blake’s a good kicker and the competition is going well. It’s going smooth and we both feel comfortable.”

He added: “It’s definitely a huge opportunity that not many kids have. I just have to take this and really enjoy it that I had this opportunity.”

For both Lucas and Caggiano, this isn’t their first go-arounds entrenched in kicking battles. Caggiano recalled his freshman year of high school where he battled for and eventually won the starting job. Meanwhile, Lucas noted how he was joined by six other kickers on the roster at the beginning of his freshman season in Amherst.

“Having somebody behind you pushing you like that, it really makes you focus on each kick. You didn’t have a choice to miss, you had to make every rep count,” Lucas said about his experience in 2012. “This is the first time it’s felt like that since I’ve been here, so it definitely helps out a lot.”

Despite this competition, Caggiano said his relationship with Lucas has tremendously helped him with his college transition, as the senior has provided tips and has helped Caggiano familiarize himself with UMass’ daily routine.

“That’s the maturity on Blake’s part. They both want the same job,” Michaels said. “They’re just going to make each other better.”

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.

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