CEDAR RAPIDS - Significant tennis accolades are often the byproduct of substantial individual focus.
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No. 45 ... Junior Dillon Kidd was a late sort of a “Hail Mary” pickup for the 2014 class. Kidd, a punter out of El Camino Community College in Torrance, Calif., accepted a scholarship offer from Iowa in early January after an extremely short courtship (maybe two days). Kidd was ready to enroll at Florida International in January. FIU’s special teams coach bolted to become defensive line coach at Connecticut.
The decision for Iowa to find a second scholarship punter — Kidd joins and will be in direct competition with junior Connor Kornbrath — sounded as though it was a debate. Iowa special teams coordinator Chris White mentioned this spring that Iowa wasn’t in the market for a scholarship punter until at least early January. Iowa had a punter and, White said, the coaches thought they needed another for competitive purposes.
Lesson in real value ... There’s the myth that Iowa punts a lot, more than any other Big Ten team. Well, Iowa hasn’t led the Big Ten in punts since 2007, when the Hawkeyes unleashed 87. Since then, Iowa’s highest finish (if that’s the right word) was fifth last year with 65. Iowa has averaged 63 punts a season in the last seven years. The Big Ten leader has averaged 77.28 punts. So, that’s a bit of a generalization.
But there is this, the fact that Iowa has two scholarship punters raises the value of the position. Kidd’s presence shows that 1) Iowa meant business when it said this spring that it wanted to create competition and 2) Iowa was willing to invest another scholarship in raising the bar. On it’s face, sure, it’s just another scholarship. But it is a scholarship at a position where one is awarded. The change in the quantity raises the real value here. Will that value be realized? In other words, if you’re spending two scholarships on punter, you better get something out of it.
Competition ... This is a dead sprint between two juniors. If someone wins this outright, someone could be facing a ceremonial senior year. This spring, Kornbrath showed his strength. He doesn’t have a consistently big leg, but he can place punts. During the spring game. Kornbrath punted 10 times for 37.7 average and downed three inside the 20. Kidd punted seven times for 41.3 average.
The one specific deficiency White mentioned this spring was hang time. That was tough to measure during the spring game, but make no mistake, it’s measured.
“He would be the first one to admit it, he was inconsistent last year,” White said. about Kornbrath. “He had some really fine moments where he punted the ball extremely well, but then there was times where his hang time hurt us. We’ve got to get more consistency out of the punter, and it’s hard. There are a lot of windy games around here in the Big Ten, and we just felt that it was important for our football team, specifically our defense, where we’ve got to change the field with field position, and we felt we needed to have him compete against someone.”
Outlook ... Kidd is a little more well-traveled than you might think. He spent two seasons as a walk-on at Florida State before transferring to El Camino. If Iowa was looking for a knockout leg, it probably wasn’t going to find it on the junior college market in early January. Kidd averaged 38.2 yards on 50 punts during his season at El Camino. Just going off that — and that’s not a whole lot of evidence — the quick conclusion is that it’s going to be difficult for Kidd to unseat Kornbrath, a two-year starter.
Some of the scouting reports on Kidd were glowing. ESPN.com loved his leg strength, accuracy and mechanics. If he approaches a 3.5 (on a scale of 5) in those categories, Kidd’s real value might be a real bargain, considering the late courtship.
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