116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
FOURTH DOWN - What did we learn this spring?
Iowa coaches weren't happy with junior punter Connor Kornbrath's lack of consistency. There was really no softening that after the Hawkeyes signed juco punter Dillon Kidd in January. Iowa didn't mess around with Kidd. The idea was to find competition at punter. Iowa coaches thought it was worth spending a scholarship.
Junior kicker Marshall Koehn is probably the guy, but he will have some competition. During the spring game, it was senior Alden Haffar, who tried the longer field goals and missed two opportunities. This fall, Texas incoming freshman Mick Ellis will join the group. He didn't put up numbers during his senior season at Lovejoy High School (Lucas, Texas), but with a strong recommend from renowned kicking coach Chris Sailer, Ellis is now Iowa's lone scholarship kicker (Koehn is still a walk-on).
THIRD DOWN - Any noticeable separation at punter this spring?
Nothing written in stone, but, at least during the spring game, Kornbrath placed punts a touch better. Kornbrath punted 10 times for 37.7 average and downed three inside the 20. Kidd punted seven times for 41.3 average.
You should know how deep the evaluation will go.
'We're trying to be fair to both of them,” Iowa special teams coordinator Chris White said. 'They're competing every day, whether it's in practice or specifically after practice. We're charting every punt, and any time we're outdoors we have to chart their hang times and their distances. We've got it all tabulated. Each day we'll give them their averages and hang times and distances and really where we feel those guys are. At the end of spring we'll kind of let them know where we feel they are. It's not going to be a done deal until training camp. I know that for sure.”
There's the myth that Iowa punts a lot, more than any other Big Ten team. 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) in punts was fifth last season with 65. Iowa has averaged 63 punts a season in the last seven years. The Big Ten leader has averaged 77.28 punts.
So, it's a bit of a generalization the joke about Iowa punting a lot. But, yes, the Big Ten does punt quite a bit.
SECOND DOWN - Who said what?
'But [we] just felt that Connor ... he would be the first one to admit it, he was inconsistent last year. 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's 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.” - special teams coordinator Chris White on punter Connor Kornbrath and the impending competition with junior Dillon Kidd
'We'll have a primary returner and [running back] Jordan Canzeri will be one of those guys for sure, and obviously [Jonathan] Parker and [Akrum] Wadley will be guys, Damond Powell will get a shot. There are a couple of wide receivers, Derrick Mitchell, Andre Harris. Those red-shirted kids, there is some talent there, and we really expect to have a really good returner back there. So, we will probably have two, one being the primary guy and the other being the nonprimary guy.” - White on next season's prospects at kick return
'Well, that's all we're doing right now this spring is trying to evaluate in competition drills ‘in space' guys who can what I call transition from speed to balance, right? So, you've got to be running full speed and then all of a sudden there's got to be a point in time where you need to transition from going 100 miles an hour to be making a left‑ and right hand turn. We call it long stride, short stride. Long stride, as fast as you can, then you've got to start short stride and drop your weight. It's interesting the drills we set up, you can really identify guys who can transition right from speed to balance and guys who can't, who struggle with it, and that's the hardest thing you do. You've got to find out the top guys who can do that, and that's all we're doing in spring mostly. We're doing punt and then competition drills in space.” - White on finding players for kick and punt coverage teams
FIRST DOWN - The summer cliffhanger
Who's the punter? That will hang out there until the first game week hits (less than 100 days now). Just passed on spring, probably Kornbrath, but Iowa has chopped up punting duties in the past and that also could happen.
Could it happen at kicker? Maybe. Here's how the attempts broke down during the spring game: Koehn was 3-for-3 (42, 37, 22), while Haffar was 0-for-2 (49, 44). Haffar tried the longer two. Probably don't read too much into that. Koehn has a strong leg. Can Ellis change the plans in August?
Kick return has bodies to sort through, but wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley likely is the punt returner. He was second in the Big Ten with 15.7 yards on 20 returns. He did most of his damage against a punchless Western Michigan team (four returns for 184 yards and two TDs) and he muffed a punt that hurt in the Outback Bowl, but he was solid throughout the year.
Red-shirt freshman Tyler Kluver is Iowa's lone long snapper. Head coach Kirk Ferentz mentioned that this spring. He quickly added they would find a No. 2 in the fall.
If Iowa gets what it needs out of Koehn and Kluver also proves himself, that likely will lead to two more scholarships among the specialists, raising that number to five (Kornbrath and Kidd will be seniors in ‘15 and Ellis).
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