After redshirt freshman quarterback Rocky Lombardi came in late into the Arizona State game to punt, many believed that he would start again this past weekend at Indiana, but a new face joined the team no more than 12 days ago.
Redshirt freshman punter Bryce Baringer started for the first time in his collegiate career at the football game on Saturday night in Bloomington with two ATT with 68 yards in the 35-21 victory.
“It takes a little bit of time I think to let the dust settle a little bit and then say, okay, this is who we are going to go with, but we are giving people opportunities,” coach Mark Dantonio said.
Baringer recently joined the Spartans this past month as a walk-on after transferring from Illinois last spring. The Waterford-native was redshirted last season for Illinois and did not make an appearance on the field.
He said he came to MSU due to its family-filled atmosphere. After officially joining the team, he met with Dantonio and found out he was starting.
“It was really cool,” Baringer said. “When I was coming in for my tryout on Monday [Dantonio] said welcome and just do your best and that’s kind of what I like about Coach D, he’ll take your best. If you give him full effort, he’s happy. It was really cool to have his support and hopefully I can continue to do my best.”
The new Spartan is currently filling in for senior punter Jake Hartbarger, who has been out with a bone bruise since the team's lost to Arizona State during week two.
Baringer already feels he has made a major connection with his new teammates.
“To fill in those shoes is a big deal for me,” Baringer said. “It’s been awesome to really hang around with everyone ... and it’s been a good brotherhood for the last, I think, 12 days. It’s been a big whirlwind going from watching the game and then two weeks later you’re thrown right into the mix of it.”
As for this Saturday’s game against Central Michigan, Lombardi is still not out of the question for the starting punting job.
Dantonio said he will continue to evaluate the players in practice to see who gets to start against Central Michigan Saturday.
“We've got to get our punter situation squared away,” Dantonio said. “I think both those guys have the ability, but they have got to do it on game day. But their go times and everything of that nature are good. The kickoff scenarios, made a couple plays on kickoff return.”
Baringer’s dream to play in the Big Ten continues to play out after his debut against Indiana, and he will continue to fight for his opportunity to play during the next few weeks.
As for his first game against Indiana, he couldn’t have asked for anything more.
“It was indescribable,” Baringer said. “I really can’t put it into words. ... It’s been a dream to play in the Big Ten and that’s why I initially went to Illinois and I felt it was the best opportunity for me. To transfer and have that opportunity remerge was really cool.”