July 29, 2008

Countdown to Camp: Position Battle #4

With the start of camp just days away, we continue our look at the top five position battles that will take place before the start of the season in late August. Coming in at #4 on our list is the placekicker spot, where a local player will go head to head with a true freshman for the kicking duties this fall. Given the importance that Iowa puts on special teams play, it makes this battle critical for success this season. Find out how this battle may play out and who could come out on top.

Placekicker

Daniel Murray (5-foot-10 and 185 pound sophomore), Trent Mossbrucker (6-foot and 190 pound true freshman)

Junior Austin Signor was expected to contend for the starting spot, but he recently decided to leave the University of Iowa and will transfer to Eastern Illinois.

A Look Back

Last season, Murray and Signor shared the kicking duties for the Hawkeyes and neither distinguished themselves enough to create any distance from the other. Signor held down the kickoff duties for most of the season, but was only 3-6 in field goal attempts and 8-10 on point after conversions. Murray connected on 7-10 field goals, with a long of 47 yards, and made 16-18 point after attempts. One positive in Iowa's kicking game was that they improved from 8th to 5th in the Big Ten in kickoff coverage.

A Look Ahead

With Signor leaving the program, a three horse race now becomes a two man dual heading into camp. While Murray doesn't have an extremely powerful leg, he is pretty accurate and did step up and connect on a pair of field goals in a close loss at Wisconsin.

Mossbrucker brings an impressive resume to Iowa City this fall having won Indiana's Mr. Football award for a kicker as a senior. At Mooresville High School, he converted 27 of 38 field goals, including a career long of 49 yards. He also recorded touchbacks on over half his kickoff attempts. Mossbrucker's resume was enhanced by an outstanding pressure performance at Iowa's camp last summer, where he connected on nearly every kick, including several from long distances.

A Prediction

It was pretty clear based on comments made by Kirk Ferentz following spring practice that he was less than pleased by the kicking game. He went so far as to say it was one of the bigger disappointments of the spring.

That meant that the job was going to be wide open heading into camp and it will be. Murray will have a leg up on the competition from an experience standpoint. But, Mossbrucker has been compared to former Hawkeye star Nate Kaeding because of his strong leg and intangibles. However, it is going to be a pretty big step up from kicking in high school to doing it at the college level.

The key for both Murray and Mossbrucker will be consistency in camp. If one of the two players can show the ability in practice to connect on a regular basis, then they will get the first shot. It could end up with both players unable to move ahead and the duties will then likely be shared until one of the two steps up in game situations.

Beyond field goals, distance on kickoffs will be very important and if Mossbrucker can show a strong and accurate leg, he may get those duties out of camp.

It is expected that Iowa will play several close games this fall, so the kicking game will be very critical this year and it could be the difference between a win and a loss in some cases. Murray will be the leader heading into camp, but the odds are that Mossbrucker will give him a strong push and it would not be a big surprise to see him earn the job by the time Maine comes to town. It would not be a big surprise to see both kickers getting some opportunities this fall.


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