By now everyone in the nation knows that Mark Dantonio proudly comes from the Jim Tressel tree.Â One of the things that Tressel hammered into him and he now has hammered into the head of his coaches and players is, â€œThe punt is the most important play in football.â€
That is why there is no coincidence that in winning the Big Ten last season the Spartans may have been middle of the road in many popular stats, but there were some critical ones that they led in.
The Spartans were #1 in the Big Ten in punt returns at almost 30% better than the closest team the Badgers.Â Keshawn Martin will return much to the chagrin of the other Big Ten schools.
The second area that they led the Big Ten in was the actual punting.Â That isnâ€™t a surprise as Aaron Bates has graduated and if the NFL plays next year, he should be on one lucky teamâ€™s roster.Â So what can the Spartans expect from their next punter Mike Sadler from Grand Rapids?
Spartan Nation has written extensively about the youngster and his immense talent, but there is some even better news.
Most punters strive to get their hang time (the amount of time the ball is actually in the air before being caught) to 4.8.Â It is pretty much a widely accepted fact in college football that punts with a 4.8 hang time will almost automatically be called as a fair catch.
The fair catch is critical.Â That means the opponent had no opportunity to advance the ball.Â I recently caught up with Sadler after practice and asked him where his hang time rests right now.Â He told me that his hang time on punts right now is in the 4.8-4.9 range.Â Understand people, that is money.Â That is mid-season form that most division kickers DREAM ABOUT.Â He is already there as a R-freshman.
A lot of punters would be happy with that.Â Not the perfectionist and workaholic Sadler.Â He told me that he expects to be at 5. or better when the season arrives.Â As you know, hang time with punters is critical.Â That gives your teammates time to get down the field and get a tackle or force a fair catch.Â MSU has a long line of great punters.Â Sadler could very well four years from now be counted among the best ever.
Think about this one point.Â The best punters in the NFL strive for a 5. average.Â He hopes to be there by the time the season starts with four seasons to improve.
The punter may not get the glory or many of the accolades, but when you are at the center of the most important position in football on the most important play it is nice to have one who already is competing with NFL players to be the best.
Sadler still has to do it in a game.Â He is similar to Aaron Bates in many ways.Â Both are top-notch people, students, and football players.Â Both are annoying perfectionists that at times are so difficult on themselves that they can be robbed of the joy of playing.
Aaron Bates was a great one, but with the emergence of Sadler the loss may not hurt as bad on the field.Â Sadler is a great kid who is well liked and respected by his teammates as a hard worker. Â The bar was very much set bye Aaron Bates. Â Mike Sadler is the same type of young man,
Sadler was humbled last year sitting behind Bates and told me last year, â€œIt is an honor to red shirt and watch and learn from Aaron.Â Not only is he a great player, but a great person and you can learn a lot watching him.â€
Sadler isnâ€™t sure if he can throw like Bates did (think Little Giants), but it is nice to see he has all of the other great qualities.Â He will be himself, but on and off the field he will fill the shoes of Aaron well.