2014 Position Previews: Special Teams


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Back during Iowa’s football media day, head coach Kirk Ferentz was very matter-of-fact about a lot of things. He knew his starting quarterback would be Jake Rudock. He said Brandon Scherff could be one of the all-time greats to come through the program.

But not everything was all hunky-dory back at the beginning of August. As he enters his 16th season at the helm, Ferentz said the team’s biggest question mark ahead of the 2014 season involved placekicking.

“The placekicking is a big question mark now,” he said. “We just don’t know. It could well be Marshall Koehn. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least. But we need to develop consistency at that position; the competition there should be healthy.”

Of the three kickers listed on Iowa’s depth chart, Koehn, a junior from Solon, has the most experience by virtue of his age. Koehn made one extra-point kick last season, when Mike Meyer manned the placekicking position.

Should Ferentz’s comments about healthy competition hold true, Koehn — who holds the placekicking position on the most recent two-deeps — will be tested by two freshman: Mick Ellis of Allen, Texas, and Miguel Recinos of Mason City.

Competition at punter?

Iowa’s Connor Kornbrath finished near the bottom of the Big Ten last year in punting — his 40 yards per punt ranked him ninth in the league. For perspective, Ohio State’s Cameron Johnston led the conference with a 44-yard average.

By comparison, Kornbrath’s average certainly wasn’t far off the league-leading figure — he also placed 27 of his 65 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. But it certainly wasn’t enough for Iowa’s coaches to feel comfortable, which explains why Iowa gave a scholarship to Dillon Kidd, a junior-college transfer out of El Camino Community College (California)

Special-team coach Chris White said back in the spring that Kidd was brought in to help push Kornbrath.

“We did bring in a junior-college punter. We felt that Connor needed to be pushed, and it’s helped Connor the first six practices for sure,” White said. “It’s helped him, and Dillon is in heavy competition with Connor right now.”

Martin-Manley to return punts; Canzeri may return kicks

Kevonte Martin-Manley solidified himself as one of the Big Ten’s most dangerous punt-returners a year ago when he took consecutive punts back for touchdowns against Western Michigan.

Martin-Manley enters his senior year as the most experienced of Iowa’s receivers, of course, but he said back during the football media day that the starting spot at punt-returner is also his.

“I feel like it’s just another opportunity for the ball to get in my hands and another opportunity to make plays,” he said.

As for returning kicks, Ferentz said he’s mostly open to anything. He noted that running back Jordan Canzeri could be a nice addition to the kick-return game because of his speed and shiftiness.

“We’re open on everything right now in the return game,” Ferentz said. “… So, yeah, that’s something we’ll talk about and look at and see how things go.”

Canzeri, who is listed as the return man on kickoffs in the latest two-deeps, said he is looking forward to the opportunity to help his team in any capacity.

“It just means [the coaches are] putting more trust in my hands, and that’s something I’m glad to have,” he said. “And I’m willing to do anything that I can to benefit our team.”

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