September 18, 2013 4:46:54 PM
STARKVILLE - The common question from Mississippi State football fans goes something like this: So what's wrong with kicker Devon Bell?
The answer might be his attitude. No, it's not what you think - he cares and maybe way too much.
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The Mississippi State sophomore kicker isn't always calm and doesn't have a casual view of life and his job on the football field. He wants badly to be a incredibly reliable field goal kicker and that burning desire is what his coach feels like is his hurdle to becoming a signature weapon for MSU in 2013.
"Devon is a big effort guy and kicking is a skill," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "That's something we constantly talk about: Is the skill related to the effort? Sometimes he starts trying harder and harder."
Bell's constant searching for answers has led to confounding statistics from field goals from 30-39 yards away, arguably the most common field goal attempts in football. From that specific distance range, Bell is currently 6 of 12 in 16 career games including missing a 35-yard attempt wide right in the first quarter Saturday in a 24-20 loss at Auburn.
"It's not a mental problem I need to overcome, I not nervous and I'm not thinking about other things," Bell said Monday. "I'm simply kicking the ball too hard, period. It's an easy fix."
In Bell's mind the "easy fix" can be corrected before MSU (1-2) takes the field to host Troy (2-1) Saturday night at Davis Wade Stadium (6:30 p.m., FSN South). However, Mullen has concerns
Bell actually has a better percentage on field goals beyond 40 yards (5 of 8) in his college career and was recruited to MSU from Warren Central High School in Vicksburg for the strength of his leg.
Mullen, who has coached the special teams in a staff effort, compared Bell's struggled with mid-range field goals to skill of swinging a golf club in terms of the rhythm and consistency required.
"The harder you try to swing (a golf club) when you get frustrated, the more sideways it's going to go," Mullen said. "As a effort guy, he's got to stop the effort and focus on the skill and it's sometimes hard to do for a young player."
Bell is actually a avid and proficient golfer and compared his mentality on mid-range field goals as standing on the tee overlooking a very difficult par-4 hole.
"It's like pulling driver on a tight par-4 and then trying to hit the ball as hard as you can," Bell said of his current mindset on all field goals. "Who cares how far the ball goes if it's not straight?"
One of the Mullen's favorite things about Bell is his mentality to demand he be treated like a football player and not just a kicker as the specialists have a tendency to be looked upon as independently contracted from the team.
"I've always been a competitive, Type-A personality and that's just how I'm comfortable feeling about life," Bell said. "It's the most difficult thing for me to dial back the effort in order for better results. Not too many things are that way in this world."
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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