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Iowa football: An analysis of the special teams

[ 0 ] August 16, 2013 |

With the bad taste of last year’s 4-8 finish still fresh in his mouth, Iowa fifth-year senior Jordon Cotton is ready to put it behind him and start fresh.

“I definitely feel like it’s a different attitude for us. Most of us haven’t been on a team that’s gone 4-and-8,” Cotton said. “It definitely put a chip on our shoulders and we’re just taking it one day at a time. We’ve still got a lot to do before that first game, but I feel like everybody’s ready to play.”

Cotton led the Big Ten and ranked 13th nationally in kickoff returns last season, averaging 28.2 yards on 19 returns, including a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Penn State on Oct. 20. The Mount Pleasant native also had 12 receptions for 172 yards and one touchdown.

As a senior, Cotton won’t just be expected to play a major role on special teams and as a wideout, but he will also need to step up and help lead the team.

“I’ve got to contribute and be a leader and show the younger guys the ropes,” Cotton said. “I’m the old guy on the team so I’ve got to be a leader.”

The 6-1, 192-pounder isn’t unfamiliar with playing a leadership role. He was a team captain his senior year of high school and was named first-team all-state his junior and senior years.

First-year coach Chris White has been impressed with what he has seen of Cotton so far and is ready for him to be a major contributor on this Hawkeye squad.

“He’s proven he can make plays at the gunner position in punt coverage. He’s a big wide receiver, extremely fast. We can use him on kickoff coverage (and in) all the phases,” White said. “I think Jordan has bought in to the fact that he can really be an impact player on special teams in all phases, not just carrying the football.”

Punt returners

Kevonte Martin-Manley, Riley McCarron, Jordan Canzeri and, likely, DamondPowell will all be competing to return punts.

Martin-Manley likely will earn the top spot. As a redshirt freshman last year, Martin-Manley returned four kickoffs for 82 yards with a long of 23 yards.

Canzeri redshirted last season after suffering a knee injury during spring practice. During 2011, the Troy, N.Y.-native returned four kickoffs for 78 yards with a long of 29 yards.

McCarron is entering his second season with the Hawkeyes after redshirting last year and Powell is new to the program after playing two seasons at Snow Community College in Ephraim, Utah.

Kickers

Barring injury, senior Mike Meyer will be the kicker for the Hawks this season.

“Mike had a really good year last year,” White said. “Having that senior leadership, having been in the fire, situations where the game’s on the line, fourth quarter kicks, those types of things. I think he can rely on those experiences and really have an outstanding year with us.”

Meyer has been nearly perfect on PATs during his collegiate career, hitting 100 of 102 attempts with his only two misses coming during his freshman season. He has made 81 consecutive PATs, which shattered the previous record of 60 set by Nate Kaeding.

The Dubuque native has been slightly less successful with field goals, connecting on 45 of 58 attempts including longs of 50 yards during his sophomore and junior seasons. He set and currently holds the Mississippi Valley Conference field goal record after nailing a 56-yarder as a prep at Dubuque Wahlert.

Sophomore Marshall Koehn was listed in the number two kicker spot on the pre-camp depth chart. The former Solon prep redshirted during the 2011 season after walking on. As a prep, he was named first team all-state his senior year connecting on 49-of-56 PATs. He went 13-for-18 on field goals including a long of 48 yards.

Alden Haffar is the third kicker on Iowa’s roster. The West Des Moines-native didn’t begin playing football until his senior year at Valley High School and is joining the Hawkeyes after playing two seasons at Iowa Central Community College. The 5-9 209-pounder connected on six of eight field goals attempts, including a long of 51 yards during his sophomore year.

Punter

Sophomore Connor Kornbrath is the only punter on the Hawkeye roster. Last season, the Bridgeport, W.Va.-native averaged 37.9 yards on 53 punts in all 12 games. The 6-6 240-pounder had a long of 61 yards and six punts of 50 yards or more.

Long snapper

Senior Casey Kreiter likely will be the starting long snapper. The DeWitt native handled all deep snaps for punts, PATs, and field goal attempts during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. The science education major has been named academic all-Big Ten the past two seasons.

New coach

Chris White is entering his first season with the Hawkeyes after spending the previous four years coaching special teams for the Minnesota Vikings. Before joining the Vikings, he had coaching stints at Arkansas State, UNLV and Syracuse, where he earned a master’s degree in education in 1992.

The Groveland, Mass.-native will have his hands full this season serving as Iowa’s special teams and running backs coach.

“You have to really budget your time between the offensive meetings and coach Davis gives me enough time to get the schedule set for special teams and plan practice and all that stuff,” White said. “It’s definitely a challenge but it’s been fun so far.”

Despite the challenges he has faced, garnering the respect of his players hasn’t been one of them.

“I think he’s like any other coach, they’re always looking out for your best interests and pushing you,” Cotton said of White. “(Having been) at the next level, he knows what he’s talking about or else he wouldn’t have been coaching in the National Football League. We trust him 100 percent and he’s been doing a great job so far.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Nick Fetty: Sports reporter for HawkCentral.com and Iowa City Press-Citizen. View author profile.

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