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IOWA CITY — These days, Tory Taylor isn’t doing anything “too exciting.”
“Just lifting and running and punting,” Taylor said Thursday. “Making the most of the nice weather while it is nice. It felt like winter went for ages.”
As the Iowa punter enjoys weather more comparable to what he’s used to in Melbourne, Australia, he’s also well aware of what the next steps are in his development.
Hitting more spiral punts was a focus for Taylor last year “because obviously the ball goes farther and the ball is in the air longer,” Taylor said.
“I didn’t have any of those punts my freshman year,” Taylor said. “So to really just rip the Band-Aid off … was a big thing for me — probably something that other people didn’t actually really notice.”
Taylor had 18 punts inside the 20-yard-line and only one touchback in 2020. That’s a staggering 95 percent of punts that pinned opponents rather than rolling into the end zone.
Then in 2021, he had 39 punts inside the 20 and 13 touchbacks — 75 percent success instead of 95 percent.
“That’s one area of my game that I really want to clean up,” Taylor said.
Not all of that responsibility falls on Taylor. A large part of pinning an opposing offense inside the 20 goes down to the punt coverage unit.
The special teams unit was without two high-level gunners — Terry Roberts and Ivory Kelly-Martin — for much of the season because of nagging injuries.
Kelly-Martin’s Iowa career is done, but Roberts will be back for another year.
“Terry’s a great asset on the punt unit,” Taylor said. “Having that chemistry with those guys will be really important this year moving forward.”
Taylor believes Cooper DeJean and Arland Bruce IV both will be a “great gunner” as well.
As Taylor looks ahead at the 2022 season, he’s facing increased competition in the Big Ten.
Taylor, despite improving his average punt distance, went from a first-team all-Big Ten player in 2020 to an honorable mention in 2021.
In 2019, no Big Ten punter had an average north of 45 yards. In 2021, eight punters averaged 45-plus yards.
Taylor has an advantage going into 2022 that he didn’t have going into 2021 — spending a few weeks time at home. Along with the family time, the trip was a “massive help” for his punting.
“That really helped a lot as well from a punting point of view — being able to go back there — because they’re the best coaches in the world,” Taylor said.
Along with Taylor’s work on punting, he’s been one of the people in the mix for the Hawkeyes’ field-goal-holding duties.
“It’s still like a work in progress, like everything," Taylor said. “I’m enjoying it.”
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