Kirk Ferentz took some time to provide several personnel updates for the Iowa football team at an I-Club stop near Dubuque, as reported by The Gazette's Scott Dochterman.
First up: senior punter Connor Kornbrath is gone, baby, gone.
Senior punter Connor Kornbrath, however, will not compete this year. After spring drills, Kornbrath appeared to be third in line behind fellow seniors Dillon Kidd and Marshall Koehn, who also serves as the place-kicker.
Kornbrath (6-6, 242) punted 136 times in his Iowa career for a 38.8 yard-per-punt average and kicked 37 inside the 20-yard line.
"Connor's probably going to end up taking this year off and going to school," Ferentz said. "He's still on scholarship and one of the 85 (scholarship players)."
As Dochterman notes, the writing was on the wall for this move after spring practice, when Kornbrath was pretty well buried on the depth chart at punter. Dillon Kidd, a JUCO transfer who arrived at Iowa 18 months ago, and Marshall Koehn, a former walk-on and also Iowa's current starting placekicker, appear to be the favorites to handle the regular punting duties. It's been a long time since Iowa had a placekicker who also handled some punting duties (Nate Kaeding did both for a brief period early in his Iowa career); if Koehn does handle punting, you'd think one of Iowa's other kickers might chip in to help with the placekicking duties (say, on kickoffs). And who knows -- maybe we'll get the return of a specialized pooch punter as well, just like the halcyon days of John Wienke. Truly, the punting possibilities are endless.
As for Kornbrath, the West Virginian arrived at Iowa with some hype -- well, at least as much hype as you're likely to see for a punter -- but never quite became the rock-solid field position specialist that Iowa football requires out of its punter. Kornbrath's numbers -- 136 punts, 38.8 yards per punt average, just 37 of 136 punts placed inside the 20-yard line -- were pretty middling. Kornbrath arrived at Iowa to take the job from Jonny Mullings, the Aussie heartthrob who struggled to lock down the position; now he finds himself losing the job before his eligibility has expired, too. The truth is that Iowa has struggled to find and develop a quality punter since Ryan Donahue.
In happier news, though, sophomore offensive guard Sean Welsh is back and practicing with the team (well, lifting weights anyway) after missing the entire spring practice for personal reasons. Welsh's performances as a redshirt freshmen were inconsistent -- he started the first seven games of the year, then became part of a rotation with Jordan Walsh -- but he was also a fairly young player. He wouldn't be the first Iowa lineman to take a step or two forward between his redshirt freshman and sophomore campaigns. And, frankly, it's just a relief to have another semi-experienced face among the names on the offensive line. Outside of senior starter Austin Blythe at center, Iowa's offensive line is pretty light on experience (especially at the tackles, where we're still getting night sweats thinking about next season).
Finally, Ferentz provided injury updates (sort of) on Darian Cooper and Jake Duzey. Ferentz seemed more upbeat about Duzey:
"He's on schedule," Ferentz said. "Everything was smooth and routine. Just keep pushing forward.
"We'll probably know more in August certainly. So far everything's right on schedule."
He was more cautious in his comments about Cooper:
"I think realistically we're shooting for this year, and he's not there yet," Ferentz said. "I think all of us thought it was going to be more in July when we'll know more. He's continuing to push hard, rehab and he's trying as hard as he can. It's just a matter of what he's able to do once he gets through a certain time period."
The difference in tone can probably be explained by the difference in the severity of the injuries. Duzey suffered a torn patellar tendon -- as knee injuries go, that's relatively minor. Cooper sustained a more serious knee injury; I don't know that the details were ever made public, but it seemed to involve torn ligaments (i.e., ACL), which is always a lengthier recovery process. Cooper sustained his injury right before the 2014 season and surgery + rehab for injuries like that is generally around a year, which would put Cooper back right around the start of the 2015 season, though he likely wouldn't be full-go right away.
Hopefully Duzey and Cooper are both healthy and able to play this fall, though, as both figure to be key players for Iowa. Duzey is Iowa's second-most experienced and reliable target in the passing game and should be a valuable weapon for C.J. Beathard to rely on next season. Cooper may not be a starter at DT, but if healthy he would provide valuable depth as a rotation option at a position where Iowa will need it.