At long last, Illinois has found a punter for the Class of 2017.
Pontiac (Mich.) Notre Dame Prep punter Bryce Baringer committed to Illinois on Saturday as a preferred walk-on. Baringer -- ranked the No 21 punter in the Class of 2017 by Kohl's Kicking -- previously signed with Southern Illinois but was granted his release by the Salukis.
"There were multiple factors (in picking Illinois)," Baringer told Illini Inquirer. "One being that the coach that recruited me and was my special teams coordinator at SIU left for a different job opportunity at EMU. Also, U of I has a coaching staff that would be a dream to play under. (Special teams coach Bob) Ligashesky is an intense coach, and Coach (Lovie) Smith is an amazing coach and person as well. I also felt that I would excel more athletically and academically at U of I. It has also been a dream of mine to play in the Big Ten. Also, home played a factor. It is much closer to home."
Baringer said SIU coach Nick Hill was very accommodating during the process.
"Yes, he was," Barringer said. "Their staff was amazing and they were very understanding of this opportunity for me."
Illinois had struggled to find a punter. The first punter the Illini offered, Tucker Day, committed to Mississippi State. The next punter they offered, Brad Robbins, received an offer from Michigan on Signing Day and accepted it immediately. The third punter they offered, Ryan Stonehouse, signed with Colorado State.
Illinois actually got an assist in landing Baringer from the punter Illinois is trying to replace: Ryan Frain.
"Actually, it was at a Kornblue kicking camp that I met Ryan Frain," Baringer said. "Ryan explained the situation at Illinois and gave me (Illinois special teams analyst) Dean Hogan's phone number. Ryan then reached out on my behalf and I followed up with Coach Hogan and Coach Ligashesky. I then sent them film and they then replied back asking for me to come down. "
Baringer will receive an opportunity to compete immediately for the starting punter job with walk-on Ryan Tucker and kicker James McCourt.
"The situation I am in is I am competing for the starting job at fall camp," Baringer said. "It is a phenomenal opportunity and is one that I could not pass up. This opportunity to potentially start my freshman year at a big 10 level is a dream of mine.