Photo courtesy of Pinecrest Academy Athletics.
Ohio State football recruit Bryce Haynes stepped into a role that landed him what could be a four year starting job with the Buckeyes.
Haynes is a long snapper — he’s the guy who lines up in the center position for punts and field goals and snaps the ball.
Haynes, who attends Pinecrest Academy in Cumming, Ga., is the first incoming freshman in OSU football history to be offered a scholarship for long snapping.
But for most of his career, long snapping was just something he did, not his main focus.
“I started at receiver as a sophomore and started at receiver and defensive end both junior and senior year,” Haynes said. “I was just a back-up (long snapper) my freshman and sophomore years, so I hadn’t really gotten into it or really practiced that much.”
During his junior season, Haynes beat out a senior for the starting long snapping job on punts, but not for field goals. Instead, he focused on playing defensive end and wide receiver.
That all changed after his junior season.
“I knew I definitely wanted to go somewhere to play football in college, but I realized it would kind of be a long shot to play receiver or defensive end at a bigger school or one of the schools I wanted to go to,” Haynes said. “I was already pretty good at (long snapping), and I didn’t have any teaching or anything, so I figured I’d try it out.”
Haynes started working on long snapping and in December following his junior year, he attended a special-teams camp in Georgia led by the country’s premier long snapping instructor, Chris Rubio.
“That’s how I really learned the great technique,” Haynes said. “It took a lot of effort, but once I learned what I was doing wrong, I got better a lot faster.”
Haynes continued during the summer months when he attended between six and eight different special-teams camps — he was named “best long snapper” at each camp.
After a camp in California, Rubio declared Haynes the best long snapper in the country.
Rubio later said on his website: “This kid has it all. … Flat out the best in the country. In the top five I have had coming out of high school in the past decade.”
Colleges took notice as Haynes received offers from North Carolina, Arkansas, Utah State, Michigan State, Harvard, Notre Dame and OSU.
Because of his Catholic background, many people pegged Notre Dame as the front-runner, but on Jan. 28, Haynes verbally committed to OSU and said he doesn’t regret his decision.
“I love the football community at Ohio State,” Haynes said. “I never even imagined that I would go to Ohio State originally starting out.”
Because of the departure of senior long snapper Jake McQuaide, Haynes said he expects to play as a freshman.
McQuaide made sure the coaches took a look at Haynes, said Kevin Noon, managing editor of BuckeyeGrove.com.
Even with all his accolades, not all Buckeye fans were keen on giving a valuable scholarship to a player whose position can normally be filled by a walk-on.
Noon doesn’t agree.
“Bryce is a once-in-a-decade type of talent,” Noon said. “I think that Bryce Haynes has an excellent opportunity to walk into the long snapping duties as a freshman. You are locking a guy down for four years instead of having to develop someone.”
For a long snapper, Noon said, every play is important.
“All it takes is one bad snap to ruin your season,” he said. “One bad snap and you’re out of it.”
Correction: May 24, 2011
An earlier version of this story stated Haynes attends Pinecrest Academy in Cummings, Ga. It is Cumming, Ga.