Hawkeye Football Position Previews: Special Teams

BY BEN ROSS | AUGUST 28, 2012 6:30 AM

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College football players don’t often get the luxury of working with a Pro Bowl talent to hone their skills.

But Hawkeye kicker Mike Meyer had the chance to spend two or three weeks this summer working on his kicking technique with former Hawkeye and current San Diego Charger Nate Kaeding. Meyer made just 14-of -20 field-goal attempts last season and missed two crucial kicks — including a 24-yarder — in a 22-21 loss to Minnesota a season ago.

“He’s been a great resource to me,” Meyer said about Kaeding. “When he was back in town, we would go out and kick. It was good to have another pair of eyes. … He always knew what was going on because he has been in more situations than I have.”

The Hawkeyes hope the extra work will pay off for Meyer and the rest of the special teams this year. Iowa has many pieces returning from last year’s special teams — but it was an up-and-down season for the unit in 2011.

Micah Hyde comes back to return punts. Hyde averaged a little mor than 8 yards on the 13 punts he decided to field last season, but too often he called for a fair catch or let a punt bounce behind him.

Freshman Connor Kornbrath got plenty of punting reps during an open scrimmage on Aug. 18, but most of his punts traveled fewer than 40 yards and had little hang time. Kornbrath is listed as the Hawkeyes’ starting punter for the season-opener. Former quarterback John Wienke switched to punter over the summer and is listed behind Kornbrath.

The coaching staff hasn’t been secretive about who will be returning punts and kicks.

 “Obviously, we’ll have Keenan Davis and Kevonte [Martin-Manley] be working back there on punt returner,” special-team coach Lester Erb said. “I’d be willing to bet that the first day Micah will be back returning punts for us. Kickoff return is a different story. We’ve had Keenan Davis back there for about two years now, but we’re looking for another returner back there, and that has not yet been determined.”

The Hawkeyes did well covering opposing kick and punt returns a season ago. They allowed just 64 yards on a total of 14 punt returns, while allowing opponents a little more than 21 yards on the average kickoff.

Even though he has looked timid at times returning punts, Hyde said that he was proud to be given the nod to line up deep in the backfield on fourth downs.

“It’s an honor that Coach Ferentz has that much trust in me to catch punts and believes in me to put the offense in a good position,” Hyde said. “Anything I can do to put the offense in good field position I’m going to try to do.”

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