The All American boy next door Sadler is a great punter and a better young man.  Photo courtesy of Troy Benoit.

The All American boy next door Sadler is a great punter and a better young man. Photo courtesy of Troy Benoit.

 

 

 

Mike Sadler has a lot to live up on the special teams unit.

 

We all remember Aaron Bates, Michigan State’s passing punter, who threw a touchdown pass off a fake field goal to defeat Notre Dame in overtime in 2010. He also threw a huge pass to give momentum towards a victory at Northwestern. But now it’s Sadler’s turn to be the team’s field position specialist.

 

When asked if he will follow in Bates’ footsteps as a punter-turned-quarterback, all Sadler could do is smile.

 

“(I’m) trying my best,” Sadler joked. “(Bates) set the bar pretty high but I’ll see what I can do. He will probably be the next MSU legend, but he’s a great guy and I’ve learned a lot from him. I still talk to him every day. … He’s done so much for the program as a punter and a leader. I’ve got big shoes to fill but I’m ready to do it.”

 

Sadler’s poise appears to have made an overwhelming impression on head coach Mark Dantonio, but his demeanor and quiet self-confidence are difficult to ignore. He has come off as well-mannered and extremely modest in spring ball, a sign that he knows what needs to be done on the field and what needs to be improved.

 

Sadler is hoping to continue the success of the Spartans’ special teams play, which is an area that Dantonio views as an added advantage to what can possibly turn tides in football games. Sadler feels the same way as his coach.

 

“It was hard sitting (last season) because I’m so used to being out there, but at the same time it was worth the wait,” Sadler told Spartan Nation. “A great punter can really help out a team. Field position is really important and I don’t think any play in football affects that more than the punt. Great placement just really helps a team out.

 

“I’ve had great placement this spring so far,” Salder said. “I’m still trying to develop a little more consistency with the hang time, but I definitely think the placement is setting me apart right now.”

 

Dantonio recruited Sadler after his impressive high school career. Coming out high school (at Forest Hills Northern), Sadler was ranked as the third best punter in the nation by Scout.com. Rivals ranked his leg as the fourth-strongest among kickers on a national level.

 

“We recruited him, he was one of the top punters in the country,” Dantonio said of Sadler. “I thought he showed a tremendous amount of maturity by coming here and sitting out a year, watching Aaron Bates grow, and he’ll do an outstanding job.”

 

Dantonio has referred to punting as a “weapon” which wins games and, maybe in some cases, loses them. It’s not only about distance; hang time is important in terms of allowing ample time for the special teams players to rush down the field, while good placement of a punt can really put opposing teams in a bind in terms of play-calling and not having much room to operate.

 

Right now, Sadler said he is achieving around a 4.8 second hang time on his best punts.

 

“He’s got a big-time leg, his left foot is causing it to spin differently, he’s got good command under taking the snap, he’s got great go-times on it and get-off times. (The) punt needs to be a consistent weapon for us, and so far it looks like it will be,” a seemingly satisfied Dantonio said.

 

The biggest thing with Sadler is getting his timing down with his long snapper, whoever it may be come fall. He says things are going well and he is developing a rapport with his snappers, all while Dantonio called him “explosive” in a post-practice interview a couple weeks ago and said the team has picked up where it left off with Bates last season.

 

“I like where I’m at,” Sadler said. “The team’s looking really good, too. The biggest thing for me is just to get more reps.”

 

And who knows, Sadler might just throw his own memorable pass while in a Michigan State uniform.