EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State punter Jake Hartbarger and wide receiver Brandon Sowards have each been granted a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA for the 2019 season.
Hartbarger injured his right leg in the second game of the 2018 season at Arizona State on Sept. 8 and was forced to miss the remainder of the year. A three-year starter, Hartbarger entered the season as a candidate for the Ray Guy Award. Hartbarger's injury led to MSU starting four punters in 2018, the most of any team in the FBS, and a total of five Spartans punted.
A native of Waterville, Ohio, Hartbarger averaged 42.0 yards per punt and placed a career-high 28 punts inside the 20 to earn honorable mention All-Big Ten accolades as a junior in 2017. He is ranked seventh in MSU history in punting average (42.1) and 10th in punts (186) and punting yards (7,833).
Hartbarger, who has earned Academic All-Big Ten honors four times, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality business in December 2018. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in marketing research.
Sowards, a three-year letterwinner, missed the entire 2017 season with a knee injury (torn ACL) he suffered in preseason camp. He has played in 32 career games, including four starting assignments at flanker, and has 18 receptions for 201 yards. Sowards also led the team in punt returns in 2016 and 2018 and has a career total of 24 punt returns for 154 yards. Last season, Sowards recorded a career-high 18 catches for 201 yards (11.2 avg.) in 13 games, including four starts (Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue, Ohio State), and played 301 snaps at receiver.
One of 29 Spartans in program history to earn Academic All-Big Ten honors four times, along with Hartbarger, Sowards graduated in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in human resources and labor relations.
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