March 27, 2009
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State punter Baker Swedenburg probably doesn''t mind a three-hour practice one bit.
The work gives the former Heritage Academy player more time to prove himself on the field.
After signing with the Mississippi State football team in 2008, Swedenburg, of Columbus, sat out a grayshirt year that enabled him to enroll as a part-time student and to keep his four years of eligibility.
Swedenburg finally made it to the practice field Tuesday when the Bulldogs kicked off spring practice. He was back on the field Thursday for the second workout.
"It''s a blessing from God to give me the opportunity to do this," Swedenburg said. "I''m real happy to be out here and be a part of a big-time SEC program."
Despite being ranked the No. 3 punter in the country in March 2007 by Ray Guy ProKicker.com Web site and the No. 9 punter nationally by Scout.com, Swedenburg will have to prove himself again.
Swedenburg is vying for playing time with MSU mid-term signee Heath Hutchens, an All-America punter at Itawamba Community College.
Swedenburg looks forward to the competition.
"We''ll definitely make each other better," Swedenburg said. "That will really help."
Even though he sat out as a grayshirt, redshirting is still an option.
MSU coach Dan Mullen said it is too early to make that determination.
"We don''t even have pads on," Mullen said. "We haven''t even rushed them yet. They just get to stand out here in the open and kick the ball. We''ll see when we bring some heat at them how they do."
The Bulldogs went through another three-hour practice Thursday as Mullen continues to introduce aspects of the spread offense.
Even though Mullen saw improvement Thursday, he admits there is still a long way to go.
"Offensively, I''m a little disappointed with the speed of how we''re picking things up," Mullen said. "We have got to find some skilled athletes and some playmakers, but we''ll get there eventually."
Mullen said things seemed to run better than they Tuesday, but higher expectations come with progress.
MSU will put on the pads for the first time at practice Saturday morning.