Specialists Settling Things in Camp

Iowa entered camp earlier this month with tight battles at kicker and punter. Winners of the competition could go a long way in determining the outcome of the Hawkeyes season.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Asked on media day who was his kicker, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said that he had no idea. He publicly ignited the competition.

Redshirt junior Marshall Koehn occupied the top line on the depth chart. He was battling true freshmen Mick Ellis, who's on scholarship, and walk-on Miguel Recinos from Mason City. Alden Haffar, who was challenging for the top spot in the spring, decided to leave the team this summer.

At punter, incumbent Connor Kornbrath, a two-year starter, is facing a push from Dillon Kidd, a junior transfer signed in the offseason. The Hawkeyes also have been breaking in a new long snapper in redshirt freshman Tyler Kluver, who's replacing stalwart, Casey Kreiter.

"I was used to Casey snapping," Koehn said. "We've got kind of a young specialists unit as in we're inexperienced. We've been trying to mold as a consistent unit this offseason. That's been one thing that's been kind of difficult, but we're getting there."

Koehn has been working for this chance for three years behind Mike Meyer. He walked on from Solon, where he was a multi-sport standout.

Meyer graduated as Iowa's second all-time leading scorer only trailing Groza winner, Nate Kaeding. He connected on 19 of 21 career field goal attempts in the fourth quarter and overtimes, combined.

"Mike was definitely a great kicker and I learned a lot from him. I think I'm ready to compete for a job. I'm ready to get out there and hopefully show that I can be consistent and be someone that the coaches and the team can rely on," Koehn said.

Koehn saw the field briefly during a 59-3 blowout of Western Michigan last fall. He converted his only PAT attempt and booted a kickoff 62 yards.

Koehn felt like his time as an apprentice to Meyer and a high school career filled with high-pressure moments has him prepared for this task. He won four state titles in football and two in baseball. He also lettered in soccer and wrestling.

"I was in a position in high school when we played in a lot of championship games. I'd like to think that I could come out and show that I can make a big kick when needed or when the game is on the line," the 6-foot, 195-pound Koehn said.

Koehn proved true on 49 of 56 PATs in high school. He converted 13 of 18 field goal attempts, the longest being from 48 yards out.

Koehn doesn't have a power leg. His strength is accuracy. He understands that's what he needs to show to remove uncertainty from Ferentz's mind.

"He's got two new guys coming in. I think it's motivating if anything. I've been here a few years and I know how camp goes. I definitely have an upper hand there. But it's definitely a competition. You never walk into anything. That's what I've learned here. You earn everything you're going to get," Koehn said.

Ellis was scouted by special teams coach Chris White. During his prep career, the Texan made 13 of 17 field goal tries, including attempts from 53, 53 and 49 yards out, while accumulating 34 touchbacks. He was awarded a scholarship and showed up early this summer to win a starting job.

"He's a really good kicker," Koehn said. "It's going to be a fun competition. (The coaches) want to see a consistent kicker. They want to see someone who can perform when the pressure is on. That's going to be the determining factor."

Kornbrath tied for third in the country with 14 punts downed inside the opponent 10 last season and ranked ninth in the country with 27 punts downed inside the 20. Of the 21 punts returned, opponents averaged 4.9 yards. He was named the CFPA national punter of the week in Iowa's regular-season finale at Nebraska.

Ferentz and White felt like Kornbrath needed more motivation. You don't add a JUCO punter if you're satisfied.

"Basically, everybody has got competition. I think that's I a good thing. I think players want that. Players want to compete," said Ferentz in the spring of his punter situation.

Kidd, whose father John Kidd punted in the NFL for 16 seasons, enrolled at Iowa in January. He said he and Kornbrath split the spring reps almost evenly and headed into camp this month still battling it out.

"The biggest adjustment was the strength and conditioning program, which I've now come to love," Kidd said. "As far as on the field, it feels wide open and that was the agreement that I was told as a recruit. Coach Ferentz definitely kept his end on that. We both got fair opportunities to show what we could do."

Kidd punted at El Camino College in Torrance, CA last season, averaging 38.2 yards on 50 attempts. He dropped the ball inside the 20 on 18 occasions and 12 punts resulted in a fair catch. He began his career by spending two years as a walk-on at Florida State.

"We're both mature enough and athletes know that good competition makes you better. In any case, we're both going to end up being better because of the situation. But we both know that we have a job to do and we want to come out here and do it because whoever kicks better is going to help our team more. A better team wins more games," Kidd said.

Kidd was verbally committed to Florida International before Iowa pulled him away in December. While his path to starting was more clear there, he chose the Big Ten like his father, who played at Northwestern.

"The coaching staff her has a huge relationship with the NFL and playing in front of these fans was something that really drew me in; playing for this school with the tradition and history just really made me want to be a Hawkeye over playing down there," Kidd said.

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