The Punt Matters - And Jake Hartbarger Is Missed

The Punt Matters - And Jake Hartbarger Is Missed

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The Punt Matters - And Jake Hartbarger Is Missed

Mark Dantonio announced today that Jake Hartbarger will miss the rest of the season while he recuperates from the injured leg he sustained in the second game of the season.  He’s been missed and the hope here is that he comes back thanks to a medical redshirt.

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Would Mark Dantonio have elected to punt on the 4th and 1 play late in  Saturday’s 29-19 loss to Northwestern if Jake Hartbarger was and able to let loose a bomb so that the Spartan defense could take over and give MSU another last shot at a win?

Plenty of folks chuckle at the notion that the punt and the punter are essential elements that go into a team’s chances at having a great – and even championship – season.

The truth, as we said prior to the season starting, is that the punt matters and it matters a lot.

We said this back in July –

https://spartanswire.com/2018/07/26/jake-hartbarger-the-punt-matters-and-he-doesnt-have-trouble-with-the-snap/

Here’s what Mark Dantonio said in July at Big Ten Media Days –

“It’s the single most important play in any football game.  It controls field position, has a huge impact on a team’s play selection and strategy, and, more than any other play, it dictates the flow and course of a game.  And Jake Hartbarger is ready for a big season.”

Some people are saying that Mark Dantonio is guilty of “malpractice” due to an inability and an unwillingness to adapt to the ebbs and flows of the season, the injuries to his players, and the way situations within the game present themselves.

Dantonio can’t do much about a punter breaking his leg in the second game of the season other than grit his teeth as he trots out the next-best booters he has on the roster.

Is Dantonio now, all of a sudden, a malpracticing head coach for not having a second-string All American punter?

All things considered, Michigan State has adjusted pretty well to the loss of Hartbarger but his absence is more than noticeable.

Redshirt freshman Tyler Hunt has punted the past two games and is averaging 38.9 yards on 15 punts overall and had a season-long of 63 yards last week against Northwestern.

Hartbarger was a Ray Guy Award candidate entering the season and he’s only the third starting punter since Dantonio became head coach in 2007 following in the footsteps of two legendary Spartans, Aaron Bates and Mike Sadler.

Hartbarger ranked in Michigan State’s top ten in yards per punt, punting yards and total punts while having 38 punts of more than 50 yards.

Seventy-one of Hartbarger’s punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line and 37 of those kicks have been downed inside the 10-yard line.

Hartbarger has been a game-changing type of player who is showing just how important he – and the punt itself – is by not being available.

Is there a silver lining here?

Maybe so.

Will Michigan State get a healthy Hartbarger back for another season next year due to this injury?

It looks that way.

Here’s to Hartbarger being able to get back the leg strength he had prior to the injury and to him getting right back to Ray Guy Award-type status so that Michigan State can get back to controlling field position and forcing opponents to have to fight uphill against the Spartan defense from the moment the punt is downed.

In the meantime, to the people who dismiss the importance of the punt, go back up and re-read Dantonio’s thoughts on the punt – or try to record your own negative thoughts as you voice them very loudly to everyone around you the next time Michigan State has to punt and the kick isn’t more than 35 yards down the field.

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