As a prep senior in the Columbus (Miss.) area, Mississippi State's Baker Swedenburg was rated among the top punting prospects in the country. But that was nearly three years ago and this spring, Swedenburg was thankful to be back competing on a regular basis.
Swedenburg redshirted last year as a true freshman with the Bulldogs. Yet Swedenburg, who originally signed with former MSU head coach Sylvester Croom, sat out the year before as a greyshirt and delayed his full-time enrollment at Mississippi State.
Attempting to fill the shoes of Heath Hutchins, MSU's punter the last two years, Swedenburg said he still receives advice from Hutchins.
"The greyshirt year, as far as kicking, hurt more than the redshirt year," said Swedenburg, a former Heritage (Miss.) Academy standout. "I wasn't able to be out here that greyshirt year like I was last year. I had to do my own thing and so I lost a little bit that year.
"But my redshirt year I was out here and able to take some good notes from Heath. I still see Heath a good bit and if I am having a problem, I give him a call and ask him some things."
Swedenburg's main point of emphasis this spring was being consistent. In the spring game, Swedenburg displayed his strong foot, averaging 50.1 yards on three punts with a long of 63 yards. But the key, he said, was to be consistent.
"I just really tried to work on my consistency," said Swedenburg. "I mean, I know I can kick it 45 yards with good hang time but it is about executing it every time. I was in a good rhythm in the fall and this spring was about getting back to that point. I kicked a good bit in the offseason. But this spring I just worked on consistency."
And the goal is to carry over that consistency from the practice fields to SEC action on game day.
"Like I said, the goal is just consistency," said Swedenburg. "I want to make sure every punt is good when it matters. I can go over to the kickers' practice field and have a good day. But the goal is to also perform well when it matters in games and respond when my number is called."
Since MSU head coach Dan Mullen arrived in Starkville, he often noted of the importance of special teams. In fact, each team meeting opens with a discussion on special teams. Overseeing the kickers and punters, Mullen's expectations for his pupils is naturally at a high level.
"Well, my good punts I think is exactly what Coach Mullen is looking for," said Swedenburg. "Coach is very high demanding and expects a lot out of us and rightfully so. We're not like the running backs where they get 40 carries a game. We get four or five shots a game and I definitely understand why Coach is so demanding. But it makes us better and makes us focus a whole lot more."
Later this year and when the fall arrives, Swedenburg's patient journey will finally come to somewhat of an end. He's waited for nearly three years to contribute to the Bulldogs' program, and get his opportunity to punt at Davis Wade Stadium. And that's a pretty good feeling for a life-long Bulldog fan.
"It is definitely something I think about every single day," said Swedenburg. "I haven't missed a home game since I was five years old. So it is definitely a dream come true, as they say. To grow up a Bulldog fan and to now have the opportunity to kick on this field, it is just a dream come true."