Intriguing candidate emerges to rescue Iowa's punt game

Chad Leistikow

IOWA CITY – Iowa's punting game was so bad last year, special-teams coach Chris White on Wednesday remarked that it was the No. 1 issue to address in the football program.

"There's no two ways to put it," White said of last year's tandem of Dillon Kidd and Connor Kornbrath. "That's not an acceptable type of performance, and they know it."

Kidd and Kornbrath are back for their senior years after combining to rank 117th nationally out of 125 teams in net punting, at 33.4 yards a kick. And now, they have company in the competition to be Iowa's main punter.

Place-kickers Marshall Koehn (a senior walk-on from Solon) and Miguel Recinos (a redshirt freshman walk-on from Mason City) are pushing the two scholarship punters in practice.

"We have four specialists in our program," White said. "One of them needs to step up and perform better on Saturdays."

Koehn could be the most intriguing option. He's got a cannon of a leg, as shown with his propensity for touchbacks on kickoffs (63.2 percent, which ranked No. 8 nationally). Iowa's opponents only mustered 370 yards of kickoff returns — less than 31 yards per game — last season, mainly because they rarely got a chance.

Koehn also handled most of Iowa's placements last year (hitting 12 of 16 field goals), so the question was asked to White: Could he handle both this fall?

"A lot of college kids have done that. You just have to make sure he doesn't get a tired leg," said White, noting that kickoffs can take the biggest toll on a specialist's leg.

But Koehn's ability might be worth a chance. Kidd averaged 38.5 yards a kick last year; Kornbrath 37.4.

"Technically, (Koehn) doesn't know what he's doing. But he hit a 60-yarder Saturday," White said. "He doesn't know what he's doing, but the ball pops off his foot. It's rare."