BLOOMINGTON – As a Sycamore, Tanner Fritschle is picking up right where he left off as a Hatchet.
Fritschle, Indiana State’s junior place kicker, headed to Indiana State two years ago after a record setting career kicking for the Black and Gold.
Last season Fritschle set an Indiana State school record by hitting 83.3 percent (15-18) of his field goals, including a long of 48 yards in ISU’s win at FCS No. 1 North Dakota State. He was also good on 29-30 extra points and averaged 62.4 yards per kick off, including 23 touchbacks. In addition, Fritschle was good on big kicks as he connected on field goals to end the first half in each of ISU’s first four games of the campaign.
Now, as a junior, Fritschle is more experienced and in line to not only take on more of a leadership role for the Sycamores, but also to be an even better kicker than the he was a year ago.
“Everyone gets, bigger, stronger, faster when they get in college, so that’s kind of expected. Being a junior you kind of know how to pace yourself, how to slow things down during practice or speed things up to where it needs to be,” said Fritschle. “So that’s a big learning curve there, just learning how much to put into everything, and just to take mental reps instead.
“I’ve always been the one guy, the one kicker who comes in. I still get called the kicker, just like back at home in Washington. It’s really just motivating, picking the guys up on the sidelines when things are going rough,” said Fritschle. “If things are going good it’s just maintaining the momentum of everybody. We’re specialists, we’re separate from everybody, but we’re still a part of the team.”
Last Thursday in ISU’s opening season loss at Indiana, Fritschle was a perfect 5-5 on extra points and placed two kickoffs into the end zone. But it was a kickoff that he purposely didn’t put in the end zone that may have been his biggest kick of the game.
Kicking off after a Sycamore touchdown late in the second quarter, Fritschle placed a perfect squib kick at the IU 14. The Hoosier returner never cleanly came up with the ball, and Calvin Burnett at the IU two eventually recovered it, and Burnett easily carried the ball into the end for a Sycamore touchdown. Fritschle’s extra point cut the IU to 45-21 just before halftime, giving the Sycamore’s hope heading into the second half. The resulting ISU kickoff also gave Fritschle the unusual-for-a-kicker privilege of being on the field for four consecutive plays.
“It’s crazy, I’ve never really seen that. It’s special when the kicker doesn’t get to come off the field for four plays in a row,” said Fritschle after the game.
While the planned squib kick hurts his kickoff average, Fritschle doesn’t mind the personal statistical infringement.
“We planned all of those for that, it’s just something that’s part of our game plan, we executed nicely, that was really good,” said Fritschle. “Kickoff average is good, but it’s all about of the team. So if I sacrifice 20-30 yards on a kick it hurts the average, but we pen them inside the 25 or they bring it out on a touchback, that’s all the more better for our defense, our offense, and potentially our field goal team as well.”
Fritschle is the last of three former Hatchets who have played for ISU in the recent years. Joe McCormick walked on and played his freshman year for the Sycamores in 2011 before leaving the team to concentrate on academics. Ben Obaseki completed one of the finest careers for an ISU defensive lineman last season and was invited to the Green Bay Packers mini camp earlier this year. The man who coached all three athletes at Washington, Kelly Brashear, feels one day both Obaseki and Fritschle could be playing on Sundays.
“I’m really proud of the fact that in our 11 years now that we’ve had a few kids go and not play just D-III or D-II but FCS. Ben had a great career at ISU, and I think, given the right opportunity and right spot, he could possibly be on an NFL roster, and hopefully he will,” said Brashear. “I know Tanner is on the watch list for the NFL this year, and he has the leg to be kicking on Sunday afternoons. I was real proud of him, the way he kicked against IU. I was wondering early if he was messing up on some of those kicks, but obviously when he kicked three or four of them into the end zone later on, it was obvious that it was by design that he was squibbing those.
“I’m real proud to be watching kids that we coached on television playing. That says a lot about their character,” said Brashear.