Springtime is creeping right around the corner, which means it is a vital point in many college football athletes’ careers. Following the conclusion of the season in January, it quickly becomes time for upperclassmen to shift gears and begin preparing for their next steps in their football lives.
The NFL Draft takes place April 27-29 in Kansas City Missouri. Many college football athletes will hear their name called on the stage signifying that they have officially made it to the highest level of American football. For others, there will be plenty of nerves during the weekend-long event as there is no guarantee to be selected by a franchise.
NFL scouts love to target skill position players, including quarterbacks, wide receivers, cornerbacks and other freak athletes. The favoritism makes it harder for other positional athletes to get attention.
Michigan State punter Bryce Baringer was one of the best in the entire country in the 2022 season. The sixth-year senior was a consensus First-Team All-American, Big Ten Punter of the Year, First-Team All-Big Ten and has the best punting average in Big Ten history at 46.0 yards per punt throughout his entire career.
Though Baringer won all sorts of awards and set plenty of records, it has been hard for him to guarantee hearing his name called during the draft. Special team players, such as punters, kickers and returners are often considered day three picks, or even undrafted free agents. However, Baringer has been enjoying the process regardless of his national attention.
Baringer said he has adjusted to the training lifestyle as he prepares for April.
“Finding the new routines was a little tough at first, but I adapted pretty quick,” Baringer said. “It was nice still being able to come workout here, still get treatment.”
Baringer also noted that he trained all over the country with several free agents and a few NFL players, including Detroit Lions punter Jack Fox down in San Diego.
Baringer has been doing whatever he’s been able to in order to train, though he didn’t participate in Michigan State's Pro Day.
The good thing for Baringer is that he received an NFL Scouting Combine invite, where he participated in drills in front of professional coaches, owners, and scouts last February. The top athletes in the draft process typically compete in the combine to showcase their talent in action as well. He also was awarded a Resee’s Senior Bowl invitation, which is essentially an all-star game for college football seniors after the season in Mobile, Alabama.
“It’s always nice when you get those big invites,” Baringer said. “So having the chance to go down to Mobile and be with you know, some of the top seniors, and same thing with the Combine, getting to be around guys like top five picks…Just seeing all the buzz, it’s pretty cool.”
At the Senior Bowl in February, Baringer posted an average top distance of 56.4 yards per kick with hang times reaching 4-4.5 seconds, which were bests among all punters during the practices.
His off-season has been important for his profile. He isn’t the only Michigan State player who has been doing the same either.
Wide receiver Jayden Reed has also entered his name into the NFL Draft. The Spartan standout has also flown under the radar due to his height and frame.
The redshirt senior broke out in 2021, earning First-Team All-American Honors in addition to posting 59 receptions, 1,026 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, which were all career highs. Reed’s 2022 campaign consisted of 55 receptions, 636 receiving yards, and five touchdowns to go along with a Senior Bowl invite as well.
Reed participated in his pro day and was mainly receiving punts, though they weren’t from Baringer.
“It was fun, you know, having a teammate down there,” Reed said of participating in the combine and Senior Bowl with Baringer. “I always knew what he was capable of. I’ve seen that everyday at practice so that was nothing new to me. I knew he was the best in the country.”
The off-season training has been a wild and thrilling ride for the two MSU standouts as they wait to hopefully hear their name called come late April during the draft.