IOWA CITY — Like most every kicker these days, Miguel Recinos has a soccer background.
The University of Iowa senior played it beginning in his youth. He watched the World Cup intently this summer, though Germany, the country he was rooting for, failed miserably and mightily disappointed him.
Where Recinos is unlike most kickers in college football is his high-school experience at Mason City. Specifically, one part of his high-school experience.
He never sought the aid of a tee on his extra points or field goals.
“I would say for most kickers (not using a tee) is very significant. But, for me, it was a little different,” Recinos said. “I always felt more comfortable kicking off the ground. In high school, my junior and senior years, I kicked off the ground. I didn’t really like the tee. For me, I just felt like I was more consistent (without it). Just as a soccer player, a goalkeeper, you’re kicking off the ground, this was a similar thing.”
Recinos made 10 of 16 field-goal attempts as a senior at Mason City, including a 58-yarder. Showing that kind of range without a tee you’d think would have made him more attractive to colleges.
But the thing is most schools didn’t even notice, he said.
“Yeah, I think that was a surprise when I talked to them,” Recinos said. “I’d mention it to them. They’d watch my game film and say ‘Oh, we didn’t notice you weren’t using a tee.’ I’d tell them, no, I was kicking off the ground, and they’d be like ‘Wow, that’s different.’”
He believes being tee-less helped him get acclimated quicker at Iowa, as he knew he still could elevate a football kicking off the ground. Recinos walked on with the Hawkeyes and redshirted in 2014, saw limited action in 2015 and 2016 and beat out Keith Duncan for the kicker position last season.
He nailed all 44 of his extra-point attempts and was 11 of 13 on field goals, including making a pair in difficult conditions at the Pinstripe Bowl in New York.
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“I do remember the very first time I was in The Swarm,” Recinos said. “You see the stadium empty before you go in, and you’re like ‘Oh, OK, I have an idea about how big this is.’ But it is very different when all the seats are full. You get out there and it’s like it’s your first moment as a Hawkeye where you really understand what the Big Ten specifically is all about. Then once you go to places like The Shoe, Happy Valley or The Big House, places like that, it’s the same thing, just the other fans.”
Recinos said having LeVar Woods as Iowa’s full-time special teams coordinator these past two seasons has been a boon. He said Woods has given Iowa’s kickers and punters access to more cameras and video of their kicks and “more specific training” when it comes to replicating game situations in practices.
Recinos is Iowa’s unquestioned No. 1 kicker at this point, with Duncan (who redshirted last season) his backup. He has experience and is poised for a solid senior season.
“(Experience) is very useful, whether it be that I’ve experienced more situations, so I have a better idea of what to do,” he said. “In the Midwest, it’s windy, right? Having kicked in games with wind and having to make adjustments on the fly, that’s something I can utilize in practice. Or even more generally speaking, let’s say I miss a kick. Well, I’ve missed kicks in games, too, and I’ve had to respond from that. So that type of experience is useful, because you know you have the capability to respond from it.”
Iowa’s punting game must see improvement from a season ago and appears to be a tossup at this point between junior Colten Rastetter and sophomore Ryan Gersonde. Iowa led the Big Ten Conference in kickoff-return yardage last season, though Akrum Wadley graduated.
The Hawkeyes were sixth nationally in kickoff return defense and 25th in punt return defense.
Huddle up: Iowa special teams
Miguel Recinos: Made all 44 of his extra-point attempts last season and was 11 of 13 on field goals. That included a career-long 48-yarder at Northwestern. Shouldn’t be any worries about this position with this guy around.
Keith Duncan: Redshirted last season after losing out on starting job to Recinos. Was 38 of 39 on extra points as a true freshman in 2016 and 9 of 11 on field goals, including that memorable 33-yarder on the last play of the game to beat No. 2 Michigan.
Caleb Shudak: Redshirt sophomore walk-on from Council Bluffs is seeking his first game action.
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Ryan Gersonde: Listed on depth chart as co-first team with Colten Rastetter. Punted in three games as true freshman last season, averaging 42.5 yards on 13 kicks.
Colten Rastetter: Former Clayton Ridge prep averaged 37.8 yards on 55 punts last season. Highlight of 2017 certainly was his completed pass on a fake field goal that led to a touchdown in the upset of Ohio State.
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