Senior punter Eric Guthrie has one unremarkable 32-yard punt to his name so far in his Hawkeye career.
But in less than two weeks, the walk-on senior will be called upon on fourth downs to help try and give Iowa the edge in field position the same way Ryan Donahue — a Ray Guy Award finalist — did the past four seasons.
“I don’t expect to be Ryan,” Guthrie said. “I just want to stay within myself and prepare the way I know.”
The good news is Guthrie has the faith of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.
“It’s a big dent, but we’ll be OK,” Ferentz said of losing Donahue. “Eric is one of our more improved guys on the entire roster. I think he’s worked hard. He’s a very conscientious young guy. So he’ll go out there and do well.”
Donahue punted 54 times last season with an average boot of 44.6 yards. He had 15 punts go 50-plus yards and pinned 22 punts inside the 20 yard line.
Guthrie inherits a big job. He will be called on to turn stalled offensive drives into a long field for the opposition.
“We’ve got to be a team that plays good field position,” special teams coach Lester Erb said. “Ryan has done a great job for us the last four years, and Eric has waited his turn. It’s kind of his time.
“I expect him to have a great year. We can’t sit here and expect him to be Ryan all of the time, but we’re excited about what he can do.”
For his part, Guthrie never thought he’d get this chance. The Nevada High School grad was a third-team all-state punter and had applied at “over 20” different schools big and small. No one was interested.
“I saw Ryan was a year ahead of me and I didn’t think they could take a punter,” Guthrie said. “It turned out they were interested.”
Guthrie redshirted and spent the next three years watching Donahue become one of the better punters in the country and tried to learn from him and improve his own abilities.
“It’s just been a huge change from where I came from,” Guthrie said. “In high school I was not good at all. I don’t even know how I ended up here. They took a shot on me.”
Guthrie looks more like a power forward at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds. His long levers help provide power, but they also mean he has to drop the ball farther to his foot.
“I don’t have to be quite as quick or explosive to have the ball go as far,” Guthrie said. “But it makes it tougher to be consistent.”
The one punt Guthrie has kicked went 32 yards late in the game against Iowa State last fall.
“It was great experience,” Guthrie said. “I lined up right, and I didn’t drop the ball. It wasn’t a great punt, but it wasn’t that bad.
“The spring game the year before was just a nightmare for me. I lined up 18 yards behind and shanked a couple.”
The insurance on Guthrie — who on media day said he did not have a scholarship yet and didn’t have the money for a fifth year of school — not being ready for prime time is thin.
Jonny Mullings, 24, who came to Iowa from Australia and is seen as a punting prodigy, isn’t in camp yet. Ferentz did not explain further at Kids Day.
For now, back-up quarterback John Wienke is the back-up punter.
“Someone is going to have to really improve to beat Eric out,” Erb said. “Right now, Eric is the guy we’re looking for.”
“He might be up-and-down early,” Ferentz said of Guthrie. “But I think he’ll settle down and go. There is another position where we’ve got to get a number two guy ready just in case.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football