IOWA CITY — Iowa’s punt return unit has become virtually nonexistent.
Iowa’s opponents have punted 34 times this season. Iowa has returned only seven kicks with just two gaining positive yardage — and that was against Louisiana-Monroe.
In Big Ten play, Iowa has returned only 2-of-17 punts and lost a combined nine yards on those returns. One of those was a fumbled fair catch.
“The biggest thing that’s changed in my mind — the way people punt now, things have changed over the course of years,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s really getting tougher and tougher to return punts just because it’s kind of shotgun punting quite a bit, what have you.”
Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde is in his first year returning punts and rarely has taken chances. Hyde has seven fair catches this year and opposing punters have seven touchbacks.
Hyde has specific instructions as a punt returner — no turnovers. Other than that, it’s all kosher.
“Just field the ball cleanly and don’t turn the ball over,” Hyde said. “That’s the No. 1 thing coach tells me and know if you can get yards after the catch, that’s good. But if I fair catch it, it’s the offense’s ball no matter where I catch it at, so just no turnovers.
“There’s one last game where it got away from me at the end. But other than that, I feel comfortable,” Hyde said.
Ferentz said he still has confidence in Hyde’s return ability.
“He’s not 100 percent comfortable back there, but he’ll be fine,” Ferentz said.