Swenson, Bates Big Part of Special Teams

Swenson, Bates Big Part of Special Teams

Kickers are usually the smallest guys on the field. But for Michigan State, Brett Swenson (So.) should have a large presence come Saturdays this fall.

EAST LANSING - Kickers are usually the smallest guys on the field. But for Michigan State, Brett Swenson (So.) should have a large presence come Saturdays this fall.

Not that the Green and White plans on kicking field goals to win games; as that grandfather of football wisdom, Joe Paterno, has pointed out, it takes three field goals to beat one touchdown. But the presence of a talented, reliable place kicker like Swenson goes a long way toward building a unit many coaches seem to neglect.

Want proof? Think back two years ago. John Goss and Matt Haughey combined for an absolutely disgusting 5-16 in field goal attempts for the 2005 season. One of the reasons the Michigan game went into overtime and was lost was because of missed field goals. Remember the Ohio State touchdown from a blocked field goal returned at the end of the first half (and John L. Smith's colorful blaming of assistants as he stormed off the field)? Misery, thy name is poor special teams play.

So with talent like Swenson returning to the gridiron, the Spartans should have a reliable foot with which to boot those all important three-pointers.

With longer kickoffs, Todd Boleski (Jr.) will hold an important role as well. This season, college football follows the NFL as the ball is moved back five yards to the 30-yard line for kickoffs.

And while many coaches spend minimal amounts of time thinking and talking about the punting game, coach Dantonio isn't one of them.

"The punt is the most important play in football," said Dantonio in an MSU release. While the statement may appear stunning at first look, it makes sense. Few plays witness as much change in field position; and with big returns possible, few plays have as much potential to change the momentum of a game.

Incoming Freshman Aaron Bates (6-0, 190) was recruited for his booming leg and is the odds-on favorite to capture the punting job.

In his high school career, Bates made the All-Ohio first team twice. In addition to playing quarterback, he kicked off, punted, and handled field goal duties. So his transition should be smooth as he will be required to master only one of those positions at Michigan State. Ed Wagner (Fr.) and Kevin Hall (Sr.) return to push Bates for the starting punting position.

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