POSITIONAL AWARENESS 2017: SPECIAL TEAMS

By Mike Jones on August 8, 2017 at 2:18 pm
DUNCANFTW

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

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ED NOTE: I believe it was at the conclusion of last year’s Positional Awareness that a commenter said something to the effect of “WUT? NO POSITIONAL AWARENESS FOR PUNTER?! PUNTING IS WINNING.” As we at Go Iowa Awesome are all about giving it back to you, the people, it was only appropriate to dedicate a bonus Positional Awareness to Iowa’s special teams unit, prior to completing the series. 

Positional Awareness is our annual rundown of the Iowa depth chart, from the position where we are most confident in what Kirk Ferentz intends to do to, well, wide receiver.

Previously on Positional Awareness:

  1. Linebacker
  2. Running Back
  3. Offensive Line
  4. Cornerback
  5. Defensive Tackle
  6. Safety
  7. Defensive End
  8. Quarterback
  9. Tight End
Eligibility Remaining  
No. Player Year Ht/Wt. Position 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
91 Miguel Recinos JR 6-1/192 Kicker          
3 Keith Duncan SO 5-11/173 Kicker          
7 Colten Rastetter SO 6-2/210 Punter          
94 Caleb Shudak FR(RS) 5-8/175 Kicker          
90 Ryan Gersonde FR 6-4/185 Punter          

THE SCIENTIST

KEITH DUNCAN (#3, Sophomore, 5-11, 173 lbs., Weddington, Weddington, NC)

What makes a good college kicker? Technique? Consistency? Range? Accuracy? How about a totally made up word: clutchness? The ability to hit the field goal when it matters? Hell, isn’t that what makes any college athlete great? The ability to come through when it your team needs you? That’s what Keith Duncan did on the night of November 12th, 2016. Iowa called on an 18-year-old true freshman to make a 33-yard field goal to upset the #3 Michigan Wolverines. He’d only attempted a 30+ yard field goal twice in his collegiate career. And he’d missed once.

The kick was right through.

Keith Duncan was an unranked recruit out of Weddington High School with zero FBS offers. His plan was to actually attend Furman on a partial scholarship until he decided to accept a preferred walk-on offer from Iowa. By August he’d been named Iowa’s starting kicker over redshirt sophomores Miguel Recinos and Mick Ellis. At that point, a narrative started to develop about the use of Duncan and Recinos. Duncan was considered the accuracy option. Recinos was considered the power option. This was odd considering Duncan made five field goals of 50+ yards in his senior year of high school.

Despite having a “long distance” option, Ferentz often elected to go for it on fourth down (or punt) leaving Duncan with few opportunities to show his leg strength.  In all, he only attempted 11 field goals all year, making 9 of them. His two misses came from 38 yards against Wisconsin and 30 yards against Florida (like it mattered).  He also went 38/39 on extra point attempts. 

The most important statistic is that Keith Duncan never cost Iowa a game or an opportunity. In fact, he did just the opposite. He won Iowa a game. As a true freshman, he hit 81% of his field goals and 97% of his extra points. That’s better than Marshall Koehn’s first full year when he was a junior. The question is: does he have the range? He showed it in high school but he hasn’t even been given the opportunity in college. The only attempt longer than 40+ yards was 41 against Wisconsin, which he hit.

Mike Meyer took over kicking duties as a true freshman in 2010 and ended his career with a respectable 76% field goal percentage. His problem was distance, too. His career long was 50 yards and he went 2/5 (40%) from 50+ yards. Marshall Koehn seemed to have the opposite problem. He was actually better from long range (80% from 40+) than from close range (76% from 39 or less).  

Iowa certainly hasn’t had any “bad” kickers since the glory days of Kaeding, but it would be wonderful if the Hawkeyes found someone who could consistently make 80% of their attempts and threaten from 50+ yards like Koehn did in 2015. Keith Duncan has shown us that he has the ability to make a kick when it counts. He’s also shown us that he can be consistent from short range. If he’s able to find consistency from long range he will be integral to Iowa having successful seasons in the future. 

Fun fact: Duncan is a biomedical science major.

THE ONLY HOPE?

COLTEN RASTETTER (#7, Sophomore, 6-2, 210 lbs., Clayton Ridge, Guttenberg, IA)

What can one say about Colten Rastetter? Not a lot. He hails from Guttenberg (as most Rastetters do), graduated from Clayton Ridge High School and walked on at Iowa in 2015. He redshirted his freshman year and found himself behind Ron Coluzzi last season. His sole punt of the season (and his career) was during garbage time against Iowa State. That’s not a lot to go on. On the August 5th Media Day Kirk Ferentz had this to say about the kicking and punting competition:

“I'd say it's a coin toss at both spots. We'll let both positions compete. Colten was better at the end of spring than he was in the beginning. I think all of us would agree he's a better player than he was in April. But it's all about consistency now…”

Based on seniority, this should be Colten Rastetter’s job to lose. But…

WHILE YOU WAIT FOR THE OTHERS

RYAN GERSONDE (#90, Freshman, 6-4, 185 lbs., Marquette, Milwaukee, WI)

The last part of that answer about the kicking and punting competition was: 

“You know, Ryan's putting some pressure on [Rastetter], too, which is good. Competition makes everybody a little bit better.”

Enter Ryan Gersonde. You might remember him as the kid who moved to Australia at two years old, learned to punt by playing Australian Rules Football and graduated from Marquette University High School. Again, the fact that there’s a high school in Milwaukee named Marquette University is extremely confusing. He was only rated two stars by Rivals but the Kohl’s Kicking Camp was a little more generous, awarding him five stars and this evaluation:

Gersonde recently attended the 2016 National Scholarship Camp. He has all the tools to be one of the very best punters in high school. Gersonde flashes a powerful leg hitting multiple punts over 50 yards including a massive 68 yard punt in July of 2015. He graded out at the 5 star level since July of 2015. He is a lefty punter who has a D1 frame and can hit a D1 punt. Gersonde is a punter worth looking at because of his upside and potential. He has some rare qualities that should make him attractive to college coaches.

Gersonde made a nice homemade highlight film showcasing his directional, rugby and pooch punting:

It’s unrealistic to assume that Gersonde has a leg up (no pun intended...or no “punt” intended lol) on the competition because he’s a scholarship player with a high rating from a kicking camp. Especially when Ferentz has historically given deference to walk-ons that have been with the program longer. Rastetter and Gersonde will get a fair shake and it wouldn’t be surprising if both players saw time during the non-conference slate. It also wouldn’t be surprising if Gersonde eventually surpasses his elder and is your starting punter by October 7th.  

MIGUEL RECINOS (#91, Junior, 6-1, 192 lbs., Mason City, Mason City, IA)

Going back to the narrative that developed last season, Miguel Recinos is considered Iowa’s “long range” threat.  The walk-on from Mason City didn’t see any action in 2015 and only converted 1/3 attempts last season, with the sole make being from 47-yards out. Recinos being labeled the long distance kicker is somewhat odd as his 50-yard attempt against Minnesota didn’t even make it out of the end zone. Chances are if Duncan is actually given the opportunity to kick a long field goal and shows some consistency, Recinos might take a permanent backseat.

CALEB SHUDAK (#94, Freshman (RS), 5-11, 175 lbs., Lewis Central, Council Bluffs, IA)

Shudak didn’t have any scholarship offers but was receiving interest from Iowa State and IWCC before walking on at Iowa. His father, Jeff Shudak, was a kicker for Iowa State in the late 1980’s and has been training Caleb to kick since he was a kid. Kohl’s Kicking Camp gave him a five-star rating and had this to say:

Shudak is an explosive kicker who won the Southern Showcase KO competition and KO charting phase of camp in May of 2015. He can KO with anyone in the nation. His FG are solid and will continue to get better off the ground. His Dad is a former D1 kicker and Shudak should be able to play at the D1 level as a kicker. He has top 10 leg talent in the 2016 class and had a strong Scholarship Camp in July 2015.

If Keith Duncan and Miguel Recinos are battling it out for number one and both are talented enough to start, it’s safe to assume the loser of the battle will be a solid #2. If that’s the case, Shudak is safely in third string territory.

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