You don’t measure a punter’s worth simply by his average distance. If you did, then you’d probably not be too impressed with MSU’s Baker Swedenburg. The junior is averaging 40.8 yards per kick, which ranks 12th in the SEC and is nearly 7 yards behind league leader Kyle Christy of Florida.
Punting is a bit of an art form, and Swedenburg seems to have mastered it. For one, he hardly ever shanks a punt. He had one shank last season, and to my recollection only one this year. His longest punt is 54 yards (versus Tennessee), but booming kicks aren’t what Swedenburg is known for (he’s had four of 50-plus this fall). He’s known for consistency, accuracy and placement.
Here’s the first number you should look at when considering Swedenburg’s effectiveness: MSU has allowed zero net punt return yards this season. That leads the nation. Swedenburg has punted 38 times in nine games (4.2/game), and eight have been returned. Obviously, the coverage team as a whole deserves some credit, but Swedenburg is keeping the ball in the air long enough for his teammates to get down there, and he’s putting the ball where it needs to be.
Of his 38 punts, 22 have been fair caught (57.9%). Only two have gone into the end zone for touchbacks. There have been 14 punts downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Keep in mind, punters often have a short field to work with; for example, if a drive stalls at the other team’s 40. At that point, distance is not going to be a measure of the punt’s efficacy. A 40-yard punt, in fact, is bad. Much better a 30-yarder with no return.
Swedenburg had perhaps his best game last week against Texas A&M. He averaged 46.0 yards on five punts, and all five were fair catches. Two were caught inside the 20, and he had a long of 51. The Aggies’ average starting field position after a Swedenburg punt: Their own 21-yard line. Swedenburg did his part that day.