IOWA CITY — Iowa’s special team units remain in flux.
The placekicking job is undetermined with senior Daniel Murray returning from an injury this week. Murray will battle sophomore Trent Mossbrucker, who connected on all 10 extra-point attempts in Murray’s absence.
“We’ll see how everybody kicks this week and go from there,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Murray and Mossbrucker have battled for three years. They split time two years ago, and Murray took full-time duties last year as Mossbrucker red-shirted.
Freshman Mike Meyer entered the fray as kickoff specialist. In two games, Meyer averages 66.9 yards per kickoff, a 6-yard increase from Murray’s kicks last year. Meyer has booted four touchbacks, one behind Murray’s total in 13 games.
Ferentz said he’ll take all three kickers to Arizona if necessary. The team has a travel roster of 70 players.
“It may not be the most prudent or smartest thing,” Ferentz said. “But I don’t know how it is with other teams, but with 70 … we can typically get everybody that we need to get on the plane.”
Meyer’s emergence has created other problems. Three kickoffs against Iowa State sailed for touchbacks, but on three others coverage allowed 40 yards per return.
In two games, opponents average 24 yards a kick return, up from 18.4 yards last year.
Ferentz compared Saturday’s effort to 2008 at Minnesota when Iowa gave up 31.4 yards per return on nine kickoffs in a 55-0 win.
“We can’t just (say), ‘OK, Michael you’ve got to kick the ball in the end zone,’” Ferentz said. “That’s an easy answer. And maybe we assumed he was going to, I don’t know. I think we figured we could just jog down there. We probably ought to straighten that out. So it was pretty pathetic the other day. It was really bad.”
Ferentz said the team is looking at using starters or making changes on all special team units.
“Throw punt coverage in there, too,” he said. “We opened the door on that one, too.”
Ex-Hawkeye Prater recovering from injury
Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater is back healthy after a muscle pull cost him the season opener against Eastern Illinois. The same can’t be said for his twin brother, Shane, a wide receiver at Iowa Western Community College.
“He tore his ACL back in February or March in the spring but he’s running now,” Shaun Prater said. “He’ll probably be out but if he wants to play, he’ll probably play the last five games. He’s good. He’s fine.”
Iowa Western lists Shane Prater as a medical red-shirt for this season, but he red-shirted at Iowa in 2008 when Shaun Prater saw action as the Hawkeyes’ nickel back. Shane Prater, a 2009 honorable mention all-region selection, caught 18 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns last year, amassing 152 yards in a game against Ellsworth. He left Iowa before the 2009 season.
Former Iowa quarterback recruit David Blackwell also played for Iowa Western last year and transferred to Bethune-Cookman this fall.
Criner likely to play
Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner practiced Monday and is expected to play Saturday after suffering a shoulder sprain last Saturday against The Citadel, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
“I’m good to go,” Criner said. “I’m ready to go full-speed.”
Criner, a 6-foot-4 junior, hauled in Arizona’s only offensive touchdown last year against Iowa. This year, he’s caught 12 passes for 236 yards and a score despite missing the second half against The Citadel.
Criner caught 45 passes for 582 yards and nine touchdowns last year.
“His size presents some problems,” Ferentz said.
Arizona free safety Adam Hall hurt his shoulder against The Citadel, but his status is undetermined.
“He’s a guy who’s going to bring the big lick,” Arizona co-defensive coordinator Greg Brown told the Daily Star. “We’re going to check Adam day to day. If he does not (play), then that’s why we recruited (freshman) Marquis Flowers.”