116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
WEST DES MOINES - Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz covered punter with one simple statement.
'Whoever's best at any of those jobs will be the guy in,” Ferentz said after the Hawkeyes' open practice Saturday at Valley Stadium. 'We'll keep an open mind.”
There was no elaboration needed. Assistant coach Chris White, who handles running backs and coordinates special teams, pretty much laid that out there in an interview this week.
'Clearly probably the No. 1 thing that we need to address in this program right now is getting the punter and the whole punt deal straightened out,” White said. 'We're working hard at it, trust me on that. We'll get it right.”
Last season, Iowa struggled with seniors Dillon Kidd and Connor Kornbrath. They had moments, but were largely inconsistent. Kidd won the job out of camp, but didn't run with it and was replaced by Kornbrath late in the season. At 37.83 yards a punt, Iowa finished 10th in the Big Ten and No. 114 in the nation last season.
Those two are still in the hunt, but senior Marshall Koehn might be the most intriguing prospect.
Yes, Koehn is Iowa's kicker. After early struggles last season, Koehn hit on 10 of his last 11 field goals and finished his first year as Iowa's kicker going 12 of 16, including a 52-yarder at Pittsburgh that was the longest field goal for the Hawkeyes since Nate Kaeding's 55-yarder against Minnesota in November 2003 and just the third 50-yard field goals since Kyle Schlicher made one his junior season in 2005.
Koehn also locked down kickoff duties, finishing second in the Big Ten with 43 touchbacks last season.
Now, punter? Sure, why not?
'I've been getting a few reps every practice,” Koehn said Saturday. 'I'm trying to work on it and make the guys better. If I can help the team with punting, it's something I'll try doing.”
This wouldn't be totally unprecedented in the Ferentz era. In 2001, Kaeding, an all-American kicker, was tried at punter. The experiment was short lived, with Kaeding punting just six times before David Bradley solidified the spot.
Koehn is totally up for it.
'I don't mind doing it at all,” he said. 'I like to stay busy during practice and it's just another thing that keeps me busy. Hopefully, I get good at it.”
Iowa didn't show a lot of special teams during Saturday's three-hour practice, but Koehn did punt a couple of times in warm-ups. One was an absolute rocket. Another clipped off the side of his foot.
This will be a work-in-progress.
'He technically doesn't know what he's doing, but he hit a 60-yarder [two weeks ago] Saturday,” White said. 'Didn't know what he was doing. The ball just pops off his foot. His leg strength is rare. It really is.”
How would this work? Is dead leg a concern?
Koehn admitted that when he added punting this spring his leg did tire out. He's since adjusted to it.
'I'm starting to get used to it and my leg strength is good,” said Koehn, who handled both jobs as a prep at Solon High School. 'I've done both. It's been a while, but it's fun getting back into it.”
White hinted that kickoffs might be up for grabs if Koehn does win punter. Koehn isn't going anywhere on field goals. Iowa ran a lightning field goal drill on Saturday and Koehn connected on all five of his attempts, including a 50 yarder. He also ended the scrimmage with a 52-yard field goal that might've been good from 60.
A lot has been made of the fact that Iowa has three specialists (Kidd, Kornbrath and kicker Mick Ellis) on scholarship and Koehn remains a walk-on. Koehn said Saturday that he's been told he'll go on scholarship this fall.
And make no mistake. Koehn is a senior and he wants to do it all. He's in the punter race to win the punter race.
'I definitely want to do everything I can,” said Koehn, who averaged 37.8 yards a punt as a senior at Solon. 'It'd be awesome, but I'm just trying to make those guys better and compete with them. Hopefully, we'll find a punter this spring.”
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