Over the summer, Buckeye Empire will be bringing you an in-depth position by position breakdown and highlight the young men that will be pursuing perfection and the hopes and dreams of hoisting the crystal ball in Pasadena this coming January. We continue our series with Special Teams and the starting long snapper Bryce Haynes.
With all the hype building before the 2012 season, and with the arrival of the almost mythical aura of one Urban Frank Meyer, the expectations for that team reached impossible levels. The anticipation of greatness was so high that the mere allusion of a possible weakness in Meyer’s crew sent most of us scrambling for our smart phones to check the Twitter reaction.
One of the early worries for all of us turned out to be a surprising source, the punting unit. Missed blocking assignments seemed to mount early in the year as the team was still learning their new system. However, there was one constant along the line that proved to be efficient and ever-important, long snapper Bryce Haynes.
Haynes, a former #1 recruit in the nation at his position out of Georgia, played in ten games for Ohio State last season, recording three tackles along the way. That statistic may not impress too many readers, but his consistency in placement of snaps back to the punter was extraordinary. Add to that his aggression in getting down the field to impede either the path of the returner or take out a blocker as the snapper? You’ve got a dynamic and reliable athlete on the special team unit. Not convinced of his importance? Just ask any punter/kicker how much they value their snapper. People like Bryce Haynes keep punters off the obituary page. Oh I forgot to mention, he’s only a redshirt Sophomore next year. That should temper our worries about the kicking unit for next year and beyond.
Haynes’ athletic ability was on full display at a certain turning point in the season last year. The undefeated Buckeyes rolled into Happy Valley with Penn State’s calendars circled and waiting. After punting six times in the first half, and with a giant goose egg on the board, the scarlet sideline was feeling tense. The first punt was successful with, you guessed it, Bryce Haynes making the tackle on the return. The sixth punt was blocked and returned for a Nittany Lion touchdown. Throughout the game, Haynes went from uncovered by the Lion defense, to continually blocked as a primary tackler on the OSU side. As the rule states, the defense is not allowed to hit the snapper until at least one second after the snap to allow said snapper to raise his head. After Haynes had shown his athleticism in getting down the field, it was obviously noticed by the PSU sideline.
Immediately after he snapped to the punter for the seventh time in the half, he was pancaked and pulled down by his jersey by a Lion defensive lineman. The flag was thrown immediately, and many reality-challenged PSU fans blamed the referee on blowing the game for them.
Unusual call? Yes. Unfortunate timing for them? Yes. Right call? Absolutely. This changed the fortune for the Buckeye offense, and they promptly marched down the field to score and tie the game at 7-7 going into the half. Obviously the momentum and the game was ours after that.
I’m not sure if that won the game for Meyer and his players, but it sure helped.
Haynes is a true unsung hero for the Buckeye football team. He brings a certain stability to a group that needs it desperately. The coaches have indicated that they want the snap faster, the kick off quicker, and the blocking to improve, but his efficiency and hard work will never be brought into question. Most teams would kill to have a snapper with his kind of tenacity and dedication to his role, and we should not overlook his importance. I know Coach Meyer hasn’t.