The reason behind Dillon Kidd's booming punts

Chad Leistikow
Iowa punter Dillon Kidd has gotten terrific hang time and distance on his kicks.

IOWA CITY, Ia. Placekicker Marshall Koehn’s biggest contribution to Iowa’s 3-0 start is, obviously, his 57-yard game-ending field goal Saturday that beat Pittsburgh. But a close second might be what he’s done behind the scenes for Iowa’s punting game.

Koehn provided Dillon Kidd with stiff offseason competition at punter, and there’s no doubt it served as motivation.

“That’s my job on the line,” Kidd said Tuesday. ”Having that pressure is a good thing.”

Let’s call it a little college football capitalism. There was a four-way competition in spring ball between Kidd, Koehn, Connor Kornbrath and walk-on Miguel Recinos. After Kornbrath left the program, a Kidd-Koehn competition emerged for the punting job – one that was wide-open after Kidd and Kornbrath averaged a woeful 38.2 yards per kick in 2014.

Kidd remembers watching Koehn in practice “hit not even the best spiral or best looking ball (and it would) still go 50 or 55 yards. It’s one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen.”

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Kidd ultimately won the job. And through three games, he's boomed 10 punts for a 49.8-yard average (compared with 38.5 on 46 punts a year ago). That figure would rank third in the FBS, but Kidd is one punt short of qualifying in the NCAA statistics. Outside of the blocked-punt return touchdown by Pittsburgh, Iowa hasn't allowed a single punt-return yard since going to a new "shield" punt formation.

“Maybe the first few days, I was punting better than he was,” Koehn recalled of the competition, “and he’s like, ‘Alright, I’ve really got to get this together.’ And he did. He’s one of the most fundamentally-sound punters I’ve ever been around.”

That's no surprise, since Kidd's father, John Kidd, punted in the NFL for 16 seasons. But with a recommitment that began in the weight room eight months ago, the fifth-year senior is making the most of his final college opportunity.

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Kidd is also Koehn’s holder on placements and says 57-yard field goals are nothing – he’s seen Koehn hit 70-plus in practice. The duo (Koehn has made 15 of his last 16 field goals and is a touchback machine on kickoffs) has helped stabilize Iowa’s special teams.

“All throughout camp, he just got better each week,” Koehn said of Kidd. “Right now, he’s hitting the ball the best I’ve ever seen. Hats off to him, he’s been working his butt off. He deserves everything that’s coming at him right now.”