For those wondering how important a punter can really be for Mississippi State or for any team, a quick look at Mississippi State's drives in SEC play during 2012 paint the picture. In SEC play, the Bulldogs saw 36 of 87 (41%) of their meaningful drives (drives that were not just to end a half), end in with a punt in less than five plays.
Had Mississippi State had shaky play from the punter position in 2012, some of the results on the field might have been quite different in the end.
The concept behind an effective punter is simple. The further a punter can kick the ball with a minimal return, the worse the other team's field position will be. The worse starting position for the other team, the less likely it is that they will score, and your team has a better chance at taking the ball in good position.
What Mississippi State had was a player that managed to constantly flip field position on most every punt. In 2012, Baker Swedenberg (and the Mississippi State coverage unit) limited opponents to .46 yards (16.5 inches) on returns. In all, Swedenberg averaged a bit over 41 yards per punt. With last year's "bend but don't break mentality," the Bulldogs benefited from this flipping of the field.
With a new defense, one designed to create more pressure, in place for 2013, the Mississippi State Bulldogs have the opportunity to force more turnovers from their opponents. If Swedenberg can improve on his punting numbers in 2013, forced turnovers and stops by the Mississippi State defense will give the Bulldogs much better starting position than they received in 2012, which should help an offense with many new faces score points.
For those that do not think Swedenberg is an impact player, how would you feel about his backup having to play in a game?