Boston College football’s quarterback competition drew all of the attention this summer. Every other position battle was an afterthought—including the one at placekicker.
Colton Lichtenberg, Mike Knoll, and former BC soccer player Maximilian Schulze-Geisthovel were all vying for the lead role in camp. Like he often does, head coach Steve Addazio waited until the end of August to name a starter. Lichtenberg, who nailed eight-straight field goals over the course of the final two preseason scrimmages, ended up on top.
But this wasn’t the first time the junior had won the job.
As a freshman, Lichtenberg took over for Knoll in the back half of the 2015 season. But the 2014 All-American small school kicker struggled to say the least. After making his first collegiate kick, he went on to miss his next three, essentially costing BC a pair of low-scoring games against Duke (9-7) and Wake Forest (3-0).
Fortunately for the Eagles, Lichtenberg picked himself up toward the end of the season, converting on his last two attempts.
Addazio decided to roll with the Savannah, Ga. native again in 2016. But right off the bat, he looked no different from the year before. About five minutes into the second quarter of BC’s season opener against Georgia Tech, Lichtenberg lined up for a 43-yard field goal. The snap and hold were good, but seconds after he made contact, the kick was blocked. Addazio went back to Lichtenberg in the third quarter. Instead of going for it on fourth-and-one, the then-sophomore was brought out to kick a 35-yarder. But as soon as the ball left Lichtenberg’s foot, it veered left.
He wouldn’t attempt another field goal all season.
From that point forward, Knoll once again assumed placekicking duties. The senior made 12-of-14 field attempts on the year, and helped lead BC to its first bowl victory since 2007—a huge relief for the man who infamously shanked an extra point in the Eagles’ overtime loss to Penn State in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl.
Instead of leaving BC, Knoll decided to use his final year of eligibility to return for the 2017 season as a graduate student. But he wasn’t guaranteed his spot.
Lichtenberg bounced back with a near-perfect preseason, reclaiming the title of placekicker. He’s continued to impress in the first two weeks of the regular season. The righty drilled all three of his field goals, including the game-winner, to propel BC over Northern Illinois in the season opener.
A few days later, he was crowned the ACC Specialist of the Week. Lichtenberg remained perfect against Wake Forest with another field goal conversion.
The junior’s four makes are already more than he had in his first two seasons combined. But Lichtenberg couldn’t care less. He’s living in the present.
“Those kicks don’t matter,” Lichtenberg said after practice on Wednesday. “Those kicks I did freshman year, the kicks I’m doing now, those don’t matter. 4-for-4? Doesn’t matter. I’ve got a game coming up, and I’ve got to make those.”
With Lichtenberg kicking field goals, Knoll and Schulze-Geisthovel were left to do the dirty work. Knoll now focuses solely the punter position, where he took over for Alex Howell last season. So far, he’s averaging 40.6 yards per boot—a 2.3 yard increase from last season. Schulze-Geisthovel, on the other hand, is manning the kickoff team. At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds the German has as good of a leg as any kicker in the ACC. Aside from one kick out of bounds, the graduate student has looked sharp in September. He’s averaging 62.4 yards per kickoff—3.6 more than BC’s opposing kickers have averaged thus far—and has already recorded five touchbacks.
By distributing the kicking duties to three separate players, Addazio says that a lot of pressure has been taken off the special teams unit. Now, Lichtenberg, Knoll, and Schulze-Geisthovel can focus solely on their job, rather than having to worry about all three fields.
To this point, the Eagles’ kicking team looks much better than it did a year ago. But like, Lichtenberg, Addazio is taking one week at a time.
“But you know, it’s a week-to-week deal,” Addazio told reporters in Monday’s press conference. “You feel good about that today, and then you hope you feel good about that post-Saturday.”
At a position where expectations are high and criticism is cruel, Lichtenberg, Knoll, and Schulze-Geisthovel are thriving.
Featured Image by Alec Greaney / Heights Editor