So, uh, every returning starter who thinks your job is safe for 2014, raise your hands. Whoa whoa whoa, not so fast, Connor Kornbrath.
Iowa officially opened up a competition at punter by receiving a verbal commitment from Dillon Kidd, a JUCO punter from El Camino CC—2013 stats here—who originally walked on at Florida State. Kidd is the son of former longtime NFL punter John Kidd (more like John Dadd) (do you get it), who spent 16 years in the league in perhaps the least destructive way to be a 16-year NFL veteran imaginable.
Kidd comes in as a junior, and already burned a redshirt while at Florida State, so his eligibility directly coincides with junior-to-be Kornbrath. Via Hawkeye Insider:
Just spoke w/ JUCO P Dillon Kidd. Got full ride. Enrolling at Iowa this month for spring ball. Plans to compete for starting job in '14.— Rob Howe (@HawkeyeInsider) January 9, 2014
Kidd was ready to enroll at Florida International this week. FIU's special teams coach bolted to become defensive line coach at Connecticut.
So, Kidd looked at his options. He contacted Chris Sailer, a renowned kicking coach. Sailer told him Iowa special teams coordinator Chris White contacted Sailer and was looking for a punter.
"After about 50 phone calls with coach White the last three days, I think we both felt comfortable," said Kidd, whose dad, John, punted at Northwestern before playing a 15-year career in the NFL. Kidd accepted a scholarship offer. He'll visit Iowa City for the first time next week and enroll for spring semester, which begins Jan. 21.
Kidd's bona fides are clearly scholarship-worthy; aside from his pedigree and his start at FSU, he went through the Chris Sailer kicking program (read more about it in Deadspin's awesome in-depth profile here) and was named the "2013 CA Nike Fall Camp Overall Champion," per the Sailer website. Sailer's site also lists Kidd as a "5-star" kicker (and the stars spin, so that's pretty special), but that designation only means Kidd is projected as a D-I player, which yeah. Far more instructive is Kidd's listing as the fifth-best punter in the 2014 class. That's good.
It's just that Kornbrath already has a scholarship, and while Kornbrath wasn't great by any stretch (Iowa was 48th in net punting in 2013 per HN), there are few if any college programs with such a surfeit of experience and potential that they can afford to spend two schollies on the punter position when they don't have to. Certainly Iowa's not one of them. The offensive line doesn't look especially loaded for the future, and while one more scholarship on that front doesn't turn it all around, it doesn't exactly hurt, either.
White's last-minute call for a punter sounds an awful lot like Iowa looking for someone to replace Kornbrath. And if the plan is that only one of these guys is on scholarship at Iowa next year, if the situation is to "work itself out naturally," in the parlance of the Bobs, then that's kind of bogus in and of itself, is it not? If Iowa's going to bring both Kidd and Kornbrath onto campus but make them compete for only one scholarship, then this isn't really about giving kids an education. It's about dangling that education as a carrot, and in a system that already puts heavy restrictions on athletes' ability to make money commensurate to their worth, to take the next step and ensure one of these guys won't get an Iowa degree without having to pay the rest of his own way would be hard to defend.
I don't know. I hope both Kidd and Kornbrath get the opportunity to graduate from Iowa on scholarship if both are going to spend any significant amount of time kicking for the school. If that's the case, then hey, game on. Let's see how much better Iowa's punting game can get in 2014 and beyond.