Iowa needs running backs, desperately. Iowa could use some help on the defensive line, no question. The Hawkeyes should fill those needs when the national signing period begins Wednesday.
Iowa also needs a punter. The search took Iowa assistant Lester Erb to Bridgeport, W.Va., a northern West Virginia town about 45 minutes south of Morgantown.
Connor Kornbrath, a 6-foot-7, 210-pounder, might be the first Iowa recruit from West Virginia and he might also be Iowa’s next punter.
“It’s an honor because people just kind of look at West Virginia and don’t think of it as much of a recruiting area,” Kornbrath said. “I’m glad I have a chance to represent my state and have the opportunity to come and play at Iowa.”
Bridgeport was an excellent team, finishing with a 12-1 record in the state playoffs, so Kornbrath’s punting wasn’t taxed. He averaged 39.5 yards on 22 punts with six downed inside the 20. He kicked off 73 times with 35 touchbacks. He rolled up 81 points with 54 PATs and nine field goals.
Kornbrath’s had field goals from 49, 48, 48 and 43 yards.
He’s not coming to Iowa City for field goals.
Eric Guthrie, who averaged 41.2 yards on 53 punts, graduated. Jonny Mullings will be a sophomore. He didn’t get a chance to punt last season. He also wasn’t invited to fall camp last August. He also wasn’t the No. 2 punter, with the job instead going to backup quarterback John Wienke.
Iowa needs a punter. It’s either going to be untested Mullings or true freshman Kornbrath.
“I have the opportunity to start, but I’m going to have to prove myself and secure the spot, if I can,” Kornbrath said. “I know they have Jonny Mullings right now. If I can earn the spot, that’d be great.”
As far as kicking goes, that’s a maybe. Junior Mike Meyer had just four touchbacks last season, fewest in the Big Ten, and three kicks that went out of bounds, tied for second in the conference.
Historically, Iowa co-special teams coach Lester Erb has divided duties, with the field goal kicker handling kickoff duties and a punter.
“What they’re telling me now is I’m going to looking at mostly punts and maybe kickoffs, but to keep my field goal skill up there,” Kornbrath said. “But right now, I’m not looking at field goals.”
Josh Helmholdt, Rivals Midwest recruiting analyst, doesn’t do a lot of scouting on kickers or punters. He relies on kicking/punting specialist Brandon Kornblue for scouting advice.
“Kornbrath was the first punter he brought up to me,” Helmholdt said. “He was very high on Kornbrath. I’ve heard outstanding things about his potential.”
This summer, Kornbrath visited Iowa, Houston and Pittsburgh. He picked Iowa and stayed with his commitment, even when West Virginia offered a scholarship.
“It would be nice being close to home, but I just fell in love with Iowa,” Kornbrath said. “Everyone thinks being from West Virginia that I’d be a big Mountaineers fan, but I just never have and I fell in love with Iowa.”