2019 Football Preview: Specialists
We continue our look at the 2019 Iowa Hawkeyes with the kickers, punters, and long snappers.
Keith Duncan, Junior (2016 Statistics) - 38-39 PAT Attempts (1 Blocked), 9-11 Field Goals, Career Long 41 Yards
Caleb Shudak, Junior (Career Statistics - 1-1 PAT Attempts)
Miguel Recinos (2018 Statistics) - 47-47 PAT Attempts, 17-22 Field Goals, Career Long of 49 yards
Lucas Amaya - Muskego, Wisconsin
2018 (HS Senior Season) Statistics - 8-11 Field Goals, Season Long of 44 yards
Outlook at the Position:
This position is likely to be one of the most difficult to project for the 2019 Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa loses a reliable leg in two year starter Miguel Recinos, who departs the program having not missed a PAT in his career and ranked 14th in career scoring at Iowa. Despite his consistency and prowess in field goal kicking, the biggest place that Iowa will miss Recinos is on kickoffs. One of the things that Iowa fans never had to worry about while Recinos was handling kickoffs were dynamic opposing kick returners. In 2018 alone, Recinos downed 39 of his 78 kickoffs for touchbacks (50%). Of the 50% that weren't touchbacks, many others were directional kickoffs or pooch kicks that kept the ball out of the returners' hands.
Consistency in both kickoffs and field goals will be the key as Iowa searches for a replacement. If the starting kicker (or kickers) that emerge from this young and largely untested group can announce themselves as a reliable and accurate option for Kirk Ferentz, the sky is the limit for this team.
Overall, I think there is a lot to like about these kickers, despite the lack of game experience they possess. Keith Duncan has already etched his name into Iowa history by kicking the game-winner against Michigan in 2016. Caleb Shudak comes into this season having only attempted one PAT, but demonstrated a great deal of power in high school, converting a season long 50 yard field goal and recording 31 touchbacks on 34 kickoffs as a senior. Lucas Amaya joins the program as a walk-on from Muskego, Wisconsin who demonstrated a fair bit of power, having hit a 44 yard attempt as a high school senior.
Until someone demonstrates they are head and shoulders above the rest, I see Iowa using a kicker by committee, with Duncan handling short to moderate field goals, while either Shudak or Amaya attempt longer field goals and kickoffs.
Potential Emerging Contributors: I think the surprise of this group could be Lucas Amaya. A relatively unknown entity when he walked-on at Iowa, Amaya fits the profile of what Iowa looks for in kickers. He was reliable in limited work as a senior in high school, converting 8 of his 11 attempts, and he has the perfect frame to become a very powerful kicker at 6' 3" and 200 lbs as a true freshman. I see the potential for this guy to be the next multi-year starter at kicker for the Hawkeyes, as long as he can continue to improve his mechanics and hone his accuracy. He may not be the full-time starter right away, but I could see him getting action in 4 games and redshirting just to get his feet wet.
Ryan Gersonde, Sophomore (2017 Statistics) - 13 punts, 42.5 yards/punt, 38.2 net yards/punt, long of 61 yards
Colten Rastetter, Senior (2018 Statistics) - 53 punts, 38.9 yards/punt, 36.6 net yards/punt, long of 69 yards Departures: None
Michael Sleep-Dalton, Senior - Transfer from Arizona State
59 punts, 43.8 yards/punt, 37.2 net yards/punt, long of 72 yards
Outlook at the Position: Punter has been a huge question mark for Iowa over the past couple of seasons, but I think this year the question has been answered and his name is Michael Dalton-Sleep. Dalton-Sleep joins the Iowa program as a graduate transfer from Arizona State University with one year of eligibility remaining and could provide some much needed consistency at punter, something Iowa has been sorely lacking since 2015.
In addition to the talent Dalton-Sleep brings, the additional competition should drive the other punters in the room to be better and continue to improve. Since the signing of Dalton-Sleep, special teams coach LeVar Woods has said that the starting punter job is an open competition, and I believe that the competition is open. However, I see Dalton-Sleep running away with the job and performing at a very high level.
Potential Emerging Contributors: The obvious answer here is Michael Dalton-Sleep. Iowa doesn't go after graduate transfers very often, but when they do it has worked out well. Hopefully, Dalton-Sleep can mesh with what Iowa wants to do on special teams and can contribute like Ron Coluzzi did in 2015.
A few things of note about Dalton-Sleep as he dawns the Black and Gold:
1. He is naturally a right-footed punter that has demonstrated the ability to punt effectively with both feet.
2. He has also demonstrated the ability to punt both traditionally and rugby-style, giving him a great deal of flexibility depending on the situation.
3. Last season alone, he down 19 of his 59 punts inside the opponent's 20 yard line. That ability by itself may win him the job in an Iowa system that prides itself on winning the field position battle consistently.
4. Last season alone, Dalton-Sleep had 10 punts that exceeded 50 yards.
Jackson Subbert, Senior - 13 2018 Starts
Nate Vejvoda, Senior
Austin Spiewak, Junior
Departures: None Additions: None
Outlook at the Position: Like many people, when looking at long snappers I wasn't really sure what to look for. I know its bad when a snap sails over a punter's head, or when the snap skips to the holder on a field goal attempt, but beyond that I am lost. Thankfully, former Iowa long snapper Tyler Kluver had recently expressed a willingness on Twitter to help people understand the position. During a Twitter DM exchange, Kluver explained to me that the most important thing for a long snapper is the connection and trust he has with his punter/holder, which he admitted is impossible to measure. He continued by saying that snap accuracy, snap speed, and smooth rotation are the most important things that can be measured for a long snapper.
Given that information, Iowa should be in good hands this coming season. Jackson Subbert had a solid 2018 campaign with no major hiccups to speak of. The biggest key for Subbert this year may very well be developing a relationship with new punter Michael Dalton-Sleep should he win the job. Luckily, Subbert should only have to familiarize himself with one new face, as I would guess Rastetter will still handle the holding duties for the PAT's and field goals.
Next Up: Iowa's 2019 Pass Rushers and Run Stoppers: Defensive Linemen.
A special thank you to Tyler Kluver for helping me understand the position of long snapper. It's a widely underappreciated position and one of those positions you usually only pay attention to if something goes wrong. I will certainly be paying more attention when the punt unit trots onto the field this fall. If you don't already, you can follow Tyler on Twitter here:
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As always, On Iowa! and Go Hawks!
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