One of the more stronger areas for Iowa on the football field that has gone pretty under the radar is the punting game. It was a rough opener for new starter Dillon Kidd, but he's been nearly flawless since. He's flipped the field position several times and is keeping the ball out of the end zone, a pivotal asset for Kirk Ferentz, who loves to partake in a field position battle with the opponent. Kidd has needed to be very good this year and he has.
"I definitely felt excited going into the first game and I was amped up," he said about his struggles in the season opener. "I'm not going to attribute that to putting any balls in the end zone (resulting in touchbacks). But you definitely get more comfortable as the season goes on. The work we have put in during the offseason, and the plan the coaches have put into place for us, I think have been contributing to that success."
Iowa's net punt average so far this season is 37.5 yards per punt, good for fith in the Big Ten. Even better, Iowa only trails Ohio State in total yards per punt at 44.4 yards. But Dillon Kidd hasn't done all the punting. Marshall Koehn, the Hawkeyes' kicker, has also taken some of the punting action. Koehn is more of the specialist punter, coming in when a rugby-style punt is called. So, taking that in account, Dillon Kidd's average himself is 46.1 yards per punt, only trailing Cameron Johnston of Ohio State in the Big Ten statistical rankings.
The punting and turnover margins have been two key factors to Iowa's success on the season. The net average of 37.5 yards is the more important number above. It's all about how well you can flip the field position. Punting from mid field into the end zone doesn't do you a lot of good in football. That's where the Hawkeyes have made a change this season. They're now pinning the opponent deep into their own territory instead of putting it in the end zone.
Kidd deserves a lot of credit for that. He admitted he didn't do well of that the first game but he's been tremendous ever since.
"Honestly, we put in a plan to game plan every week," Kidd shared. "They expect me to put the ball in a certain direction and at a certain place on the field. I just go out and try to hit the best punt possible. Fortunately they've all been good so far. I just want to keep that up. We'll see where we go as far as field position keeps changing and continuing to help the team out as the weeks roll on."
Kidd actually won the punting job during fall camp. It was a competition between he and Marshall Koehn. Koehn was vying to handle both the punting and kicking duties for Iowa until Kidd was named the starter. Koehn still has a role as the rugby-style punter but Kidd has taken the job and run with it. He hasn't looked back since being told he would be the Hawkeye punter.
He discussed how the journey was and what the battle during fall looked like as he dueled it out with Marshall Koehn.
"Since the start of my career I've always competed against other guys," he noted. "I started out as a walk-on at Florida State and I had to compete for that starting job. Then moving on after that, even transferring from junior college, there was competition there. Coming here I knew there would be competition. It's a power five school. Being in the Big Ten you're going to fight for every rep on the field."
"But it all helped me out because Marshall has such a strong leg," Kidd added. "Knowing he was out there and that he can hit a great punt every time, that just helped me in my preparation to go into every rep at practice that I have to play up to my full potential or I might not see the field this year. It was good to have him pushing me."
It was a tough battle to win but Kidd received the good news. Now he wants to repay those coaches for having the faith in him to get the job done.
"It's always a good feeling knowing you're going to play," Kidd admitted. "I kind of knew Marshall was going to get in some punts like the situation the last few weeks on the rugby punts. I knew it was going into the game planning. Knowing the coaches have trust in me, and that they put this responsibility on my shoulders, it makes me feel good. It makes any starter feel like now that I have this job, now it's my responsibility to go out and hit every rep to the best of my ability."