Double up: Patriots use sixth-round picks on Michigan State’s Bryce Baringer, Ameer Speed

Detroit News

Bryce Baringer was arguably the best punter in the nation last fall, and on Saturday, the Waterford native became the first Michigan State punter selected in the NFL Draft in 16 years.

Baringer, a first-team All-American in 2022, was selected with the 15th pick of the sixth round, going No. 192 overall to the New England Patriots. He is the fifth Michigan State punter to be selected in the common era of the NFL Draft and the first to be selected in this year’s draft.

“I was just very thankful for an opportunity to play,” Baringer said of getting the call from the Patriots. “It’s been a lifelong dream to be able to play in the NFL and I’m just thankful that this organization, the Patriots, were able to select me. I’m just so grateful and very excited.”

Later in the sixth round, the Patriots grabbed another former Spartan, selecting cornerback Ameer Speed with the 37th pick in the round, No. 214 overall.

“It’s a blessing to have your name called and what every guy dreams for when they start playing football,” Speed said. “So to experience that moment is amazing.”

That draft concluded with three Michigan State players being selected; wide receiver Jayden Reed went in the second round on Friday to Green Bay. Several players who had hoped to be selected but will now await an opportunity via free agency include linebacker Ben VanSumeren, defensive tackle Jacob Slade, safety Xavier Henderson and offensive lineman Jarrett Horst.

Prior to Baringer, the last Michigan State punter selected was Brandon Fields, who went in the seventh round to the Miami Dolphins in 2007. Craig Jarrett was selected in the sixth round in 2002 by the Seattle Seahawks while Greg Montgomery (1988, Houston) and Ray Stachowicz (1981, Green Bay) were third-round picks.

Baringer set a Michigan State record with an average of 49 yards a punt, which led the nation, while he booted 24 kicks of 50 yards or more and downed 22 inside the 20-yard line as a senior in 2022. He finished his career with an average of 46 yards a punt, which is a Michigan State record and a Big Ten record, surpassing Iowa’s Reggie Roby, who averaged 45.5 yards a kick from 1979-82.

The selection for Baringer is the latest chapter in a long journey to the NFL.

He began as a walk-on at Illinois in 2017 before transferring to Michigan State before 2018 with no real plans to play football. But injuries led to Baringer getting a call from then-coach Mark Dantonio which led to a spot on the team and action in four games that season.

By 2019, he was the odd man out again and spent the year taking pictures for the team website. In 2020, he got another shot, improving his numbers each season before becoming arguably the nation’s best punter in 2022.

“Just seeing everything come to fruition, all the hard work, a lot of dedication, the early mornings, you know, kind of the stereotypical stuff,” Baringer said. “Just to be able to get that call was such an incredible feeling and something I’ll remember for the rest of my life for sure.”

Speed (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) was a four-year letterwinner at Georgia, playing in 48 games for the Bulldogs, including during the 2021 national championship season. He then headed to Michigan State as a graduate transfer for the 2022 season.

In 12 games with the Spartans, including 11 starts, Speed had a career-high 62 tackles while ranking second on the team with five pass breakups. He also played 87 snaps on special teams, something that, along with a solid pro day at Georgia, led to him being selected by the Patriots.

“This is a Bill Belichick special,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said, referring to the Patriots coach. “He’s got traits to develop but he’s a darn good special teams player already. … His pro day is really what has him here, and his special teams performance going back to Georgia where he had 518 plays on special teams for the Bulldogs.

“Bill sees a guy that is going to contribute on special teams right away and we can develop him. … And if your name’s Speed you better be fast and he ran a 4.33 40-yard dash.”

Speed, who praised Michigan State coach Mel Tucker and defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett, said the opportunity he had with the Spartans to play full-time on defense proved to be the reason he was drafted.

“It was the perfect opportunity to come in and have a chance to play DB,” Speed said. “They gave me the opportunity to do that and be a player and I’m thankful for that. I always felt like I was an NFL talent. I knew I could get to the NFL. I finally had a chance to go out there and be a player and it was blessing.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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