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, running back.
Previously on Positional Awareness:
K#1: MIGUEL RECINOS (#91, Senior, 6'1, 193 lbs., Mason City, Mason City, IA)
There was skepticism when Recinos first laid claim to kicking duties last season. Remember, that as a sophomore, he’d only gone 1/3 and one attempt didn’t even make it to the uprights, despite him being labeled the “long distance option.” But he had a great fall camp, entered the season as the starter, and never relinquished those duties. Overall, he went 11/13 in 2017 (one was blocked thanks to an uncalled leaping penalty on Penn State) and was a perfect 44/44 on PATs. Of his 70 kickoffs, 32 were touchbacks.
Recinos is a reliable option at kicker and has the leg strength to hit from long range, evidenced by him going 4/4 from 40+ yards last season. Kirk Ferentz has opted to be more aggressive in no man’s land in recent years, but with Recinos he may have found a reliable option in taking the points instead of a 4th down gamble.
Whatever This Is
P#1: COLTEN RASTETTER (#7, Junior, 6'1, 213 lbs., Clayton Ridge, Guttenberg, IA)
P#1: RYAN GERSONDE (#2, Sophomore, 6'4, 198 lbs., Marquette, Milwaukee, WI)
Every once in a while I think about Adam Shada and I ask myself “Was Adam Shada to blame for being wholly unable to cover James Hardy (among others), or was Kirk Ferentz to blame for keeping him out there?” I mean, Bradley Fletcher was on the roster. So was Jordan Bernstine, in 2007. Were they really so unprepared? I guess we’ll never know the answer. Ferentz stuck with the experienced player…for better or worse (it was worse).
I found myself asking the same questions about Colten Rastetter last season. Who is to blame here? Is Ryan Gersonde really that bad? I mean, if he was even somewhat competent, he’d be starting…right?
Last season, Rastetter averaged 37.8 yards on 55 punts, with his longest punt of the year being 55 yards. That’s not a very good average. I also think back to the Nebraska game, arguably the worst game of Rastetter’s career, where he fumbled away the ball, leading to a Husker touchdown, and only punted twice for 34 and 20 yards. Typically you progress as the season goes on, not get worse.
Despite all the struggles, we only saw Gersonde in three games. Honestly, he didn’t look much better than Rastetter, but he at least averaged 42.5 yards per punt. And maybe we expected too much of Gersonde. Just because he was a scholarship player with a high rating from a kicking camp didn't mean he’s going to come in and dominate as a true freshman. Growing pains were expected.
Regardless, the punting situation needs to get figured out and both of these guys need to improve. That’s really the end of the story. If punting is winning, Iowa isn’t doing a very good job at the punting part.
The Projected Returners:
PR: MAX COOPER (#19, Sophomore, 6'0, 185 lbs., Catholic Memorial, Waukesha, WI)
Cooper was the second option at punt returner last season, so we figure he'll take over with VandeBerg's graduation. He only had one return last season, but he has a history of returning in high school and more importantly: he was the 2018 spring game superstar. Cooper may not turn into the next VandeBerg at wide receiver (yet), but we're confident that his ethic has impressed coaches enough to give him the starting crack at punt returner.
KR: IHMIR SMITH-MARSETTE (#6, Sophomore, 6'1, 175 lbs., Weequahic, Newark, NJ)
Like Cooper, Smith-Marsette still has plenty to prove as a wide receiver, but his electricity as a returner is undeniable. Last season he returned four kickoffs for 134-yards, good for an average of 33.5 yards. He also returned a kickoff for a touchdown against the Nebraska that was called back by a wholly pointless Geno Stone penalty. While there are fumblitis issues with Smith-Marsette, he is an extremely dangerous returner and can give Iowa excellent field position every time he touches the ball.
While You Wait for the Other
K#2: KEITH DUNCAN (#3, Sophomore, 6'1, 173 lbs., Weddington, Weddington, NC)
Did you forget? Here's a reminder:
Keith Duncan became a hero as a true freshman and we expected more out of him...it just didn't come to fruition. After the Michigan game he only attempted two more field goals, missing one, and missed a rare PAT. Last fall, Miguel Recinos beat him out in camp and never faltered throughout the course of the season, leaving Duncan to ride the bench and ultimately take a redshirt.
Duncan made his triumphant return to the depth chart this fall and has a positive attitude heading into his sophomore season. Supposedly, he’s improved his game across the board and should Recinos struggle, Duncan will once again have an opportunity to seize the starting position.