Media day was last Monday and the next three weeks I’ll be breaking down the special teams, the offense and defense.
I’m starting with the special teams this year because Iowa has to replace one of the best kickers ever to play for the Hawkeyes... Mike Meyer.
The 6-2, 190-pound player from Dubuque finished second in career field goals (61) and career scoring (324 points).
Only Nate Kaeding did better with 67 field goals and 373 total points.
Mike also set a school record with 122 straight PATs. Nate held the record with 60 straight.
Going into camp, former Solon prep Marshall Koehn is listed as the top kicker.
Marshall was first-team all-state as a senior for the Spartans, who had a 41-1 record his last three years.
Marshal was a pretty good all-around athlete for Solon as he caught 22 passes on offense and had 47 tackles and seven interceptions.
He was also a four-year letterman in baseball and soccer and lettered two years in wrestling.
Marshall, who will be a junior, will be challenged by freshman Mick Ellis and walk-on freshman Miguel Recinos.
Marshall, who made 17-24 field goals in his career as a Spartan, credits Mike Meyer for his shot as the top kicker.
“Mike was a great role model for me,” said Marshall. “We came in battling my freshman year and the more I got to know the guy, the more I liked him. He kind of took me under his wing. One thing I learned from Mike was the mental game. If he missed a kick in practice or a game, he is a guy that I had confidence that he was going to get back in there and bang the next one in.”
James Morris has graduated and Marshall wants to keep the Solon pipeline going.
“I want to keep it going,” said Marshall of James, who signed with New England. “He was a great leader for the Hawkeye program, same as he was in Solon. I hope to kind of follow in his footsteps as a specialist and be known as one of those great players from Solon.”
Mick Ellis is from Texas and was second-team all-state after his junior year, hitting 13-17 field goals, including three from over 49 yards.
Alden Haffar, a senior walk-on from Des Moines, will also challenge for the kicking position.
The punting position is open with junior college punter Dillon Kidd on board.
Connor Kornbrath has been a two-year starter at punter.
Last year, he tied for third in the nation with 14 punts inside the opponent’s 10. He also ranked ninth nationally with 27 punts inside the 20. Opponents averaged 4.9 yards on 21 returns.
Those are really good numbers but Connor’s average of 40 yards per punt last year could be better.
Dillon was an all-conference pick at El Camino Community College last fall where he averaged 38.3 yards on 50 punts.
Kevonte Martin-Manley returns not only as the top receiver but the second best punt returner in the Big Ten.
Kevonte averaged 15.7 yards a return and is the only Big Ten player to ever return back-to-back punts for touchdowns. He did that against Western Michigan.
Kevonte’s 184 return yards against Central Michigan are the second most in Big Ten history.
Nile Kinnick holds the Iowa and Big Ten record with 201 yards, set in 1939 against Indiana.
Jordan Canzeri, a junior from Troy, New York, should be one of the top two kickoff returners for the Hawkeyes.
Jordan has returned 19 kicks in his three year career and averaged 17.6 yards a return. He averaged 19.5 yards as a freshman.
First of all, Jake Rudock will be the starting quarterback when Iowa hosts the University of Northern Iowa on August 30.
“Jake Rudock is our starter,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said at media day. “That’s not a debatable question right now. I don’t see that changing.”
Last year Jake was 204-346 for 2,383 yards, 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Jake’s passing yards for last season are better than Matt Rodgers all three years (Matt was a two-time first-team all Big Ten quarterback), Chuck Long and Rick Stanzi when they were sophomores.
If Iowa has a shot winning more games than last year, Jake has to cut his interceptions in half.
Remember, Jake threw three picks against Michigan (including a pick-six on his first pass) and the Hawks still won.
Ed Podolak, who has been Iowa’s color man on radio since 1982, likes what he sees in Jake.
“Consistency and I like the way he calls the game,” said Ed at media day about Jake. “He really improved as the season went on. He got rid of the ball quicker and made quicker decisions and that comes from playing more. With a good spring he had, he should make another giant step this fall.”
I like the fact that coach Ferentz is considering using C.J. Beathard in a couple of series.
That will make the defenses Iowa plays have something else to prepare for.
C.J. has a stronger arm and can move around the pocket and make plays.
There are only two other quarterbacks in camp including walk-on Justin Joyce (6-0, 175) and freshman Tyler Wiegers (6-4, 215).
Justin is from Virginia where he was first-team all-conference as a senior. He will be a red shirt freshman.
Tyler was first-team all-state from Lake Orion, Michigan. He completed over 62 percent of his passes his last two seasons in high school.
The fullback spot for the Hawkeyes is not what you call a sexy position.
You have to be a good blocker, not only on running plays but passing plays, too, and you don’t get too many chances to carry the ball.
Iowa has a nice one-two punch with juniors Adam Cox (5-11, 230) and Macon Plewa (6-2, 236).
Both are blue collar types and both can block.
Adam played in all 13 games last fall with three starts.
Adam is the lead blocker for Mark Weisman, who rushed for 975 yards last season.
Mark scored a big 9-yard touchdown run against Michigan in Iowa’s second half, 24-21, come-from-behind win.
Mark ran right up the middle, Adam took out the linebacker at the eight and Mark finished the scoring play by carrying a Wolverine defensive back in from the three.
“It’s rewarding when you can say you had something to do with the touchdown,” said Adam. “Especially when you watch Mark run, especially that Michigan run. When you take one guy and he takes a couple with him too, that’s fun.”
Adam also ran the ball four times for 16 yards and caught three passes for 51 yards.
“Both Adam and Macon did a good job last year,” said coach Ferentz. “We consider them both to be starters. They contribute on special teams as well.”
This is the first of a three part series on the Hawkeye football team.
Next week I’ll look at the offensive live, tight ends and running backs.
The Hawks have a scrimmage this Saturday (Kid’s Day) and I’ll check it out.