We did it, friends. FINALLY the best damn punter in the Big Ten is officially in Iowa City.
Tory Taylor, our Aussie kicking hero, was formally recognized by the Big Ten on Thursday when they announced the All-Big teams and individual awards for special teams. For the first time in the 10-year history of the award, the Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year award went to an Iowa player:
Taylor averaged 44.1 yards per kick, the third-best average in the Big Ten. But nine of his 40 punts went for 50+ yards and almost half (18) of those kicks were downed inside the 20-yard line. Only one of his punts went for a touchback and the six returns opponents attempted to make on his punts went for just 4.6 yards an attempt. He was a field position weapon for Iowa all season.
Do you need some punting highlights? YES YOU DO.
WARNING: This is some serious PUNT PORN.
A HUGE #B1GFootball for the 2020 Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) December 17, 2020
Need to flip field position? @torytaylor09 was clutch for @HawkeyeFootball all season long
Congratulations for your hard work on the field pic.twitter.com/WNP99hbhl0
And to think he was just a true freshman this season! And this was his first experience playing American football! The future is bright for our Aussie punting hero.
As the Big Ten Punter of the Year, Taylor was also the obvious choice for All-Big Ten First Team honors by the coaches and media.
Taylor is the first Iowa punter to win All-Big Ten First Team honors of the Kirk Ferentz Era. The last Iowa punter to be named First Team All-Big Ten was Nick Gallery in 1995 and 1996.
As you can see above, several Iowa players also earned All-Big Ten honors. Return specialist Charlie Jones earned Second Team honors by the coaches and Third Team honors from the media. Jones was one of the top punt returners in the Big Ten this season, averaging 10.5 yards per return and returning one punt for a touchdown (in Iowa's 49-7 rout of Michigan State). His bold punt returning style led to a miscue in Iowa's regular season finale against Wisconsin, but overall he was a very positive force in the return game and helped Iowa pick up additional yards on multiple occasions.
A year after winning the Big Ten Kicker of the Year award, Keith Duncan earned All-Big Ten Third Team honors this season. Duncan actually led the Big Ten in scoring (68 points), though that's at least in part a function of Iowa playing eight games this season (Rutgers and Penn State were the only other Big Ten teams to not miss at least one game this season). Duncan was 14/18 on field goals (78%), which trailed Nebraska's Connor Culp (13/15) and Indiana's Charlie Campbell (8/9), the All-Big Ten First and Second Team recipients. Three of Duncan's four misses were from 50+ yards. And it's not as if missing field goals was an impediment to Rodrigo Blankenship winning the Groza Award last season... not that I'm bitter about that or anything. Ahem.
Finally, Ihmir Smith-Marsette earned All-Big Ten honorable mention recognition as a kickoff returner. ISM didn't equal his dazzling kick return efforts from 2018 (707 yards, 29.5 yards per return) or 2019 (503 yards, 29.6 yards per return, 2 TD) this year, mainly because opponents stopped kicking the ball his way. Probably smart for them, but disappointing for us (and ISM, no doubt). He returned eight kicks for 176 yards this season, an average of 22 yards per return.
Congratulations to our puntgod, Taylor, and all of the Iowa special teamers who received All-Big Ten honors. Special teams were a big part of Iowa's success this season, so it's deeply satisfying to see them recognized and richly rewarded by the All-Big Ten selectors.