The old adage is that defense wins championships, but special teams win games and win over fans.
For Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans, the special teams unit was relied on heavily in the 2018 season. In their 9-6 loss on the road to Nebraska on Nov. 17, both teams solely kicked field goals. That game was a tribute to kickers Mike Sadler for MSU and Nebraska’s Sam Foltz. The two tragically lost their lives in a car accident in 2016.
As for 2019, the Spartans will have their stars returning to kick the football around Spartan Stadium and the rest of the Big Ten Conference.
Michigan State Special Teams Outlook
Junior kicker Matt Coghlin returns to the spot for MSU where he made all 25 extra points that he attempted last season. He is now a perfect 63-63 on the point-after-touchdown opportunities in his career.
Also looking at last season, the Cincinnati native cashed in on 18 field goals on 22 attempts with his longest make a booming 49 yards. He put up a team-high 85 points utilizing his right leg and running in a fake field goal against Indiana.
So far, Coghlin is 33-41 in his career in terms of field goals.
Watch for Coghlin to return to his scoring prowess this season. Barring an injury, he will likely lead the team in scoring again. He could be utilized for fake field goals as well.
On the other side, senior Jake Hartbarger will reprise his role as a long-ball kicking, coffin corner picking punter for MSU. Hartbarger, the Waterville, Ohio native, only appeared twice last season after suffering a season-ending right leg injury at Arizona State.
In his two games, Hartbarger fired six punts. Averaging 48.8 yards per kick with a long of 74 and two boots inside the20-yard line.
As a result, redshirt freshman Tyler Hunt manned the punting unit. The Gobles, Michigan native totaled 36 punts averaging 40.1 yards per boot. Hunt was able to force 10 fair catches, 15 punts inside the 20 and amassed a long of 63 yards.
Hunt might be considered the hot hand, or foot, in this case. However, look for Hartbarger to return to his starting spot as the grizzled vet.
Michigan State opens the season Aug. 30 when it welcomes Tulsa to Spartan Stadium. When the call comes around, pay extra close attention as to who will drive their leg through the football for the Spartans.