Michigan State University first-year football coach Mel Tucker was hired Feb. 20 and soon recognized that special teams had to be addressed.
Tucker and special teams/linebackers coach Ross Els, who both coached at the University of Colorado last season, immediately went to work.
And one name kept appearing on their radar — St. Augustine Prep senior long-snapper Bryce Eimer.
Eimer committed to Michigan State and will join the 2020 recruiting class on the field this season. He announced the decision Wednesday on Twitter.
The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder had signed a national letter of intent in February to James Madison, which reached the Football Championship Subdivision title game last season.
“I just felt (Michigan State) was the best opportunity for me to be at my best,” Eimer said about switching his commitment. “I just felt like it was a better place for me overall.”
Eimer, like most special teams players, received a walk-on opportunity when training camp starts to earn an athletic scholarship. Each program has scholarship limits, and only a handful of specialists earn one.
Eimer is the 15th-ranked long-snapper in the country and the top-ranked in New Jersey, according to Rubio Long Snapping, which holds tournaments around the country and is a national recruiting database for colleges.
The 18-year-old from Sewell, Gloucester County, would be competing for a full scholarship.
“All I know how to do is just work and try to be at my best and succeed,” said Eimer, who will still be on the team even if he does not receive the scholarship.
“I’ve done that my whole life. I’ve always been a hard worker. So I’m just gonna push myself to do my best and enjoy it.”
St. Augustine coach Pete Lancetta, who has been in contact with Eimer during the entire decision process, is confident Eimer will earn a scholarship with the Spartans.
“Michigan State gives him a shot at big-time football, which has always been his dream,” Lancetta said. “He’s a competitor and doesn’t shy away from any challenge. I give him a lot of credit.
“Long-snapping is a special niche, and he has mastered it. I’m just happy for him.”
Eimer also played linebacker, defensive lineman, running back and tight end at St. Augustine, which has been beneficial.
“As a long-snapper, sometimes you block and go down and cover,” Lancetta said. “He was tough playing defense for us, too, so that didn’t hurt having that background.
“For someone to be better than him, they are going to have to be pretty darn good. That’s how good he is.”
Michigan State, a member of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision and the Big Ten Conference, finished 7-6 for the second consecutive season and won the Pinstripe Bowl under longtime coach Mark Dantonio.
Dantonio stepped down in early February.
Eimer did not get to visit the campus or meet the coaches in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he was still pleased with the transition.
“The coaches were great,” said Eimer, who added the coaching change played a factor in his decision. “When we were talking, they said special teams are very important to them. And that really shows.”
Eimer grew up an Ohio State fan. He is excited to play the Buckeyes, who are also in the Big Ten, each season.
He said switching commitments was the “hardest decision of my life,” and wanted to thank his parents — Larry and Christi — for their constant support.
“I’m really excited, but I’m also ready,” Eimer said about playing at the D-I level. “It’s been my dream since I can remember. I want to do that on the biggest stage that I can.”