IOWA CITY — Iowa has another Australian punter. He’s not 27 like the last Australian who punted for Iowa (it was just last year with Michael Sleep-Dalton, you certainly remember him).
“I don’t know if they pulled a tooth to find out how old he is,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said Wednesday. “I think he’s more like 20 or 19. He’s not 25, I know that.”
It’s not really Ferentz’s job to know how old the Australian punting recruit is. That falls under recruiting director Tyler Barnes’ job title.
“I think he’s a big kid with a big leg,” Barnes said. “I think he’s 22, so he’s not quite as old as Sleep. He’s a 22-year-old freshman. He’s mature and has been training for this for a while.”
Special teams coordinator LeVar Woods did go to Australia to recruit Tory Taylor. The Iowa program got a firsthand look at the punting factory there.
The factory put out the 2019 Ray Guy Award winner, giving to the nation’s top punter. Kentucky’s Max Duffy averaged 48.6 yards a punt last season. Before he was a Kentucky Wildcat, Duffy was a Fremantle Docker in the Australian Football League.
Taylor is from Melbourne and attended Haileybury College.
“It’s very well structured, it’s a machine,” Ferentz said. “It’s like that school down in Florida (IMG Academy, which has high school sports enrollees from all over the country), it’s like that but specifically for guys who kick and punt the ball. It’s really an interesting phenomenon. You think you’ve seen it all, not even close.”
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The second signing day is like a party without a cake. All the energy and hype goes into the December signing period. February is for needs and now Iowa has three punters, enough for a competition to find one.
The Hawkeyes signed Taylor and officially welcomed Wisconsin D-lineman Michael Lois to the program. Timing and signing kept Iowa from releasing Deontae Craig’s name with its official list in December. Craig is official now.
Iowa also released a list of 14 walk-ons, including Riverside’s Zack Lasek (6-6, 250-pound defensive end) and Waukon O-lineman Asher Fahey (6-5, 270).
In September 2018, Lois (6-4, 260 from Elkhorn, Wis.) broke three vertebrae in his spine after a swimming pool accident. Now, Lois has two rods in the back of his neck, between the c5 and c7 vertebrae. He also has a plate through the front. This was three surgeries.
The accident happened two weeks after Lois committed to play football at Iowa.
Ferentz was upfront about the possibility of football. It’s definitely wait-and-see and maybe not plausible.
“It’s our responsibility to make sure we’re committed to a player graduating,” Ferentz said. “That’s the first and foremost goal. ... The good news is he’s functioning a lot better. Whether or not he can play football remains to be seen. I’m not optimistic, but as a parent and coach, but in the big picture that’s hardly the most significant thing in the equation. Right now, he’s doing well and he will be here with us.”
Iowa has become effective in the offseason recruiting. From grad transfer punter Ron Coluzzi (not Australian) to running back James Butler to offensive tackle Coy Cronk.
That news happened between news conferences. Cronk, a three-plus year starter at offensive tackle for Indiana, took the grad transfer route to Iowa City. The 6-5, 325 pounder is in for 2020.
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“He wanted a change of scenery for whatever reason and it was a good match with Tristan (Wirfs, who declared for the NFL) leaving, it was really timely,” Ferentz said. “He’s not an incumbent, either. Nobody is an incumbent, but he’s going to have every opportunity to earn a job on the line out there.”
Cronk would’ve finished his career last season at IU, but he suffered a broken and dislocated ankle in week 4 and was knocked out for the season.
Barnes recruited Cronk while he was staffer at Vanderbilt.
“Whether you get a recruit or don’t, always leave them in good standing,” Barnes said. “Always send them a ‘thank you’ note and make sure you follow up. You never know what will happen in four years. Maybe our paths will cross again.”
— Iowa’s bio for kicker Caleb Shudak says he has been granted a scholarship for the spring semester. Shudak is a senior and did enter his name in the transfer portal. Of course, he will be a senior the same time Keith Duncan is a senior, so it’s hard to blame Shudak, who handled kickoff duties last year, for taking a look.
“We’re going to do everything we can to keep Caleb on the roster,” Ferentz said.
— Ferentz confirmed that redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jeff Jenkins has left the program.
— Iowa will begin spring practice near the end of March and have four weeks of practice ending the last week of April. There might be a coaches clinic with a few players in the Des Moines area, but Ferentz said there won’t be an open practice.
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