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IOWA CITY - A punting game's value often is measured in first downs.
A good punt forces the opponent to grind out one extra first down. A great punt equals two more first downs for the defense. A poor punt costs the defense at least one first downs. Those statistics are vital to a defense and are critical in measuring the value of a punter on each possession.
'If you're on a plus-50 punt and it's a touchback and they start at the 20-yard line, that's another first down,” Iowa special teams/running backs coach Chris White said. 'Whereas if you pin it inside the 10, chances of them going 92 yards against a defense like ours, it's tough to do. The same thing where you're backed up. You've got to get the ball on the other side of the 50-yard line. That's what we need to be. We need to be more consistent with that.”
Consistency was an issue for Iowa last year. Punter Connor Kornbrath, now a junior, ranked ninth in Big Ten punting at 40.0 yards per boot. Kornbrath (6-foot-6, 240 pounds) hit 27 inside the 20 - third-most in the Big Ten - and boomed 11 punts 50 yards or more (tied for fourth). But it was the consistent parts of punting like placement and hang time that forced the Hawkeyes to re-examine the position.
Enter junior-college transfer Dillon Kidd (6-2, 230) and a full-blown competition this fall. The punters are in the same class and entered camp with an equal shot of winning the job.
'One day, one guy is better. The next day, the next guy is better,” White said. 'Someone needs to emerge and really take the thing over. We'll have team situations where they're punting and then I'll keep them after practice and we'll chart times, distances and those types of things. We'll do that throughout camp to find out who the guy is.”
Iowa's coaches were up front with Kornbrath about his status this off-season, which he respects.
'Coaches brought me in, we both knew I needed to get better and improve in certain aspects,” said Kornbrath, a West Virginia native. 'Bringing in Dillon, it's going to bring in competition for both of us. We're pushing each other every day and one of us is going to come out of camp winning the spot.
'I didn't take it personal at all. I knew at times I needed to improve.”
Kidd is a football legacy, the son of 16-year NFL veteran punter John Kidd. After a two-year career at El Camino (Calif.) Community College, Kidd turned down a scholarship to Florida International to compete for a job at Iowa. Kidd averaged 38.2 yards a punt last season.
'I was told when I was first getting recruited that they had a guy who was on scholarship already and I knew that coming in,” Kidd said. 'But doing my research, talking to everybody I could talk to, they told me what a stand-up guy Coach Kirk Ferentz is and when he gives you his word that he means it. For me that was good enough. I knew if I came here I was going to get every opportunity as punter. He's held true to that, and I couldn't be happier.”
The key for either punter is consistency, and they both know that. White is clear in his objectives, and the punters have worked throughout the summer to meet his expectations.
'Consistency to me is hang time. We can't have any punt under four seconds, or it's going to come right back at us,” White said. 'So that's No. 1. Your hang time, your placement, to me, is No. 2. We want to kind of cut the field in thirds. So if we're on the hash mark, we want to kick it down the alley, we don't want to have the ball floating to the field where our guys can't adjust. The third thing to me is distance.”
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