Q&A: Mississippi State punter Baker Swedenburg on hang-time, being undefeated, music and more

Not only is Baker Swedenburg a good punter, he’s a good guy, too.

The man at the top of Mississippi State’s nation-best punt team talked on Tuesday about everything from hang-time and being undefeated to Fleetwood Mac and playing guitar at church.

As we try to do at least once-a-week here on the HailState Beat, we’ve a got a great Q&A session, this time with the Bulldogs’ junior punter, the Colossus of Kick, Swedenburg himself.

He’s averaging 40.7 yards per punt on 26 attempts this season, with three going for 50+ and 11 registering as touchbacks. Most importantly, MSU is tops in the nation, holding opponents to -4 total yards on punt returns. Yes, four yards less than zero. Not bad.

You’ve really only had one punt you might want to take back this year, that’s a pretty good average.

Yeah, definitely a bad punt against Kentucky. It was terrible. Other than that, it’s been pretty good.

Dan Mullen has told us before that when he first got here he wasn’t really sure what to make of you, but now, you’ve got a Ray Guy Award nomination and you’re doing incredibly well. What have you done to get yourself to that point?

It’s mainly been hard work and just taking what Coach Mullen has told me to do and take it to the next level. Do it 1,000 times and when that time comes for me to be ready, I’ll be ready.

There are several factors that go into punting, with timing, direction and all kinds of things playing a part. What’s the easiest part and what’s the hardest?

I’d say the toughest part is just making sure I place the ball where I want to so my coverage guys don’t have to worry about looking up and worrying about where the ball is. They know exactly where it’s gonna be. The easiest is going out there and really just kicking’ I’ve been kicking forever. The technical stuff behind is the hard part, but just kicking is great.

Having the consistency like that, at any position, really, is tough. Is there anything you credit for that?

I credit Coach Mullen, really. He’s the one every day standing right behind every time I punt. I credit him for coaching me up and making sure I do my job. He makes going out on the field a lot easier.

You have good hang-time on your kicks every time, then Darius Slay and Jamerson Love are extremely fast as your gunners. It seems like you have a pretty good combo where they can get down there pretty quickly.

I think they both ran a 4.29 [40-yard dash] this past spring. Like I said, as long as I just get it where I’m supposed to kick it, they make my job easier.

What was going through your head against Tennessee when you kicked it so high, Slay was able to shed his block, get down near the goal-line and catch your punt cleanly?

We’ve been practicing it all the time every single Thursday. We had, literally, one just like that this past Thursday. It was kind of weird how close it was to last Thursday’s practice. That’s what I was thinking about.

I’ve heard you play guitar in the band at church.

I started playing guitar first, but I started playing drums for contemporary worship service band in ninth grade and did that throughout high school. Then, I went to college and I couldn’t bring my drum set with me and I had to go back to guitar. So, I’ve been doing that and I’ve been playing at Crosspoint Church since the start of the semester. We actually go together a few weeks ago and submitted a video for Battle of the Bands. I think there’s like 20 bands or so and we ended up making the top four, so we’re actually gonna be playing this Thursday outside The Union. I don’t know what I’m gonna do if we win, because whoever wins opens for the band for Bulldog Bash on the weekend of the ‘Bama game on a Friday night, so I’ll be kind of unavailable. But it’s gonna be good. We’re actually gonna play a Fleetwood Mac song.

After Fleetwood Mac, favorite bands?

Rush, definitely. John Mayer, let’s see, Dave Mattheews, for sure. Grateful Dead, Need to Breathe, U2, Van Halen.

What’s your major?

Masters in Information Systems. I should finish that this summer, if not next fall, but I think I can finish that this summer.

Are you gonna find another degree to get for next year?

I’m trying to get another masters. So, two masters and one undergraduate, I’d say I got my money’s worth.

Do you hope to do something with all that, or you are you interested in getting into the NFL?

I’ll pursue the NFL, but I wanted to make sure I have plenty of academic stuff under my belt for a fall back.

Now, just about this season in general. You’re 6-0, riding high, I imagine it’s pretty happy in the locker room.

It’s a good mindset to have. We definitely enjoy each win, but come Monday, it’s a new week. I feel like we do a good job of not getting ahead of ourselves. We take it one week at a time, for sure.

In the preseason, you guys laid out your goals of winning the SEC West. It’s one thing to say it then, but how much different are things now that you’re halfway through the season and you’re undefeated, 3-0 in the SEC and you control your own destiny?

It’s easy to set goals, and some of them can be more like dreams, but these definitely turned into legitimate goals that we’ve all thought about. Like you said, we do control our own destiny. It depends how hard we work each day at practice, how focused we are for the games. That’s all up to us. We feel like we can play with anybody in the SEC West or the East, for sure.

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