Punting has been a problem for Iowa football over the last two seasons. Last year Iowa ranked last in the Big Ten in punting with an average punt of 37.9 yards per attempt. The year before Iowa ranked second-to-last with an average punt of 38.6 yards per kick. And it's not as if Iowa was regularly punting from midfield or their own side of the field attempting to pin an opponent deep (though they rarely succeeded at that, either) -- most of these boots were just standard punts from Iowa's own side of the field and attempts to flip field position. Rarely were those attempts successful.
The last time Iowa had a solid punting game was 2016 (they ranked 5th in the Big Ten that season, with 40.9 yards per kick). The punter that season was Ron Coluzzi, grad transfer from Central Michigan who excelled on the field and in media appearances. Well, Iowa's going back to the grad transfer well to try to find the answer to its punting woes:
Proud to be a Hawkeye! 110% committed, and blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing program. Thank you to @LeVarWoods @ProkickAus @JohnnyPKA, & all the Hawkeye fans for believing in me & showing their love. Cant wait to put on the black and gold! #swarm19 pic.twitter.com/QXYAHbSwgj
— Michael Sleep-Dalton (@mjsleepdalton36) February 1, 2019
Sleep-Dalton, a native of Australia (yes, we finally have our own Aussie punter), began his college career in the JUCO ranks at City College of San Francisco before moving to Arizona State in 2016. After redshirting his first season in Tempe, Sleep-Dalton took over as the Sun Devils' primary punter as a sophomore and junior. In 2017, he averaged 39.9 yards per kick, with nine punts of 50+ yards. In 2018, Sleep-Dalton improved his average to 43.8 yards per kick, with ten punts of 50+ yards. He also placed 19 (!) punts inside the 20-yard line. Sleep-Dalton will be on scholarship at Iowa and he has one year of eligibility (2019) remaining.
Officially, Sleep-Dalton will be in a competition with incumbent starter Colten Rastetter, a senior-to-be, and back-up Ryan Gersonde, a sophomore-to-be, for the starting punter spot next season. But... it's hard to believe Iowa would have pursued him as hard as they did (and offered him a scholarship) if they didn't think it was very likely that he would be the starting punter next fall. And, frankly, we can't wait. After all, #PuntingIsWinning and with Sleep-Dalton booming kicks, Iowa might finally get back to punting being a strategic advantage, rather than a marked disadvantage.