Editor’s note: This is the seventh in a series about each position on the Iowa State football team.
AMES — Coach Paul Rhoads has a proven, surefire weapon on his 2013 football team.
He’s a preseason All-American, on the watch list for the highest award given at his position, and has consistently come through for the Cyclones in the three years he’s been on the field
He also happens to be the one player Rhoads never wants to see on the field.
“I’d like to see Kirby (Van Der Kamp) punt less, let’s make that very clear,” Rhoads said. “The less punts he has inside the 20 (yard line) overall, the better football we’re playing. But overall, Kirby, without a doubt, is a weapon for our football team. I will continue to state, I think he’s the best punter in college football, and deserving to be on the Ray Guy Award list, and a preseason All-American list and so forth.”
While Van Der Kamp, the lone preseason All-American for Iowa State, doesn’t have the most glamorous job — as Rhoads pointed out — he certainly has one of the most important.
Flipping field position has been one of Van Der Kamp’s calling cards since he starting punting for the Cyclones as a freshman in the 2010 season. Over the course of three seasons, Van Der Kamp has punted 205 times, with 72 of those punts landing inside the 20 yard line.
Being able to pin the defense deep in their own end allows Rhoads and offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham to possibly take more risks offensively.
“We know we can do certain things from about 60 yards away, and still have an opportunity to play a long field of defense if we don’t get it done as an offense,” Rhoads said.
Van Der Kamp, for his part, knows the situation. Punting the ball away means willingly giving the ball up, and no one, obviously, sees that as a desirable situation.
But with the right mindset, Van Der Kamp said he can still get himself pumped up to go do the job he’s supposed to do.
“I go out there for my teammates, and I see them working hard, and I want to do the best for them and give them a great opportunity,” Van Der Kamp said. “I want to give my defense the opportunity to keep them down inside the 20.
“When I do have my opportunities, if it’s many or if it’s few, I have to go out there and perform.”
KICKING BATTLE WIDE OPEN
The Cyclones may know exactly who’s punting the ball for them this fall, but as for the place-kicker?
That’s a different story.
“It’s wide open. Both (Edwin Arceo and Cole Netten) are kicking better than we did a year ago at this point,” Rhoads said. “But (we’ve seen) much more consistent work out of those guys right now, and that will probably be a game-week call.”
Arceo comes in the incumbent as a senior, connecting on 12 of 18 field goals and 37 of 40 extra points in his only season of action for Iowa State.
But right beside him is red-shirt freshman Cole Netten, who was a well-publicized recruit out of Ankeny before coming to Ames. Netten said he benefitted from his year on the sidelines, and is enjoying the open competition for the starting job.
“I would say one advantage Edwin does have on me is experience,” Netten said. “Being out on the field kicking in front of 50,000-plus people, and knowing what that feels like, (is big).
“Traveling to Iowa, Kansas and a couple other places and being at every home game (as a red-shirt), I got a lot more comfortable.”
The edge in experience may go to Arceo, but with the mental aspect being paramount in the kicking game, any edge is only slight.
Both kickers said at Iowa State’s Media Day that having the other there pushes them both to be at their best at all times.
“I think it’s good having somebody as good as you competing. It keeps you on your toes, keeps you focused,” Netten said. “When he does good, obviously I’ve got to at least match it. So, it makes me focus a little more than if it was just me.”
With Iowa State’s kicking history, there’s a little more attention paid to this race than there might be normally, and Arceo and Netten both expressed confidence in themselves at Media Day.
But they know their own speculation doesn’t amount to much.
“(I don’t feel I have an edge), not if coach said it’s wide open,” Arceo said with a laugh. “It doesn’t matter what I feel or what I think, ultimately it’s up to (Rhoads).”
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE ISU SPECIAL TEAMS
The depth chart
P — Kirby Van Der Kamp, sr., 6-4, 211; PK No. 1 — Edwin Arceo, sr., 5-9, 196; PK No. 2 — Cole Netten, fr., 6-1, 205; PR/KR — Jarvis West, jr., 5-7, 174; Long snapper — Spencer Thornton, jr., 6-1, 245; Holder — Justin Coleman, sr., 5-11, 188
The (Ray) guy
Kirby Van Der Kamp enters his senior season with a long list of accolades and tons of preseason hype. The three-year starter is on the Ray Guy Award watch list for the nation’s best punter. Van Der Kamp had 77 punts last year for 3,157 yards, a 41-yard per-punt average, 29 punts that landed inside the opponent’s 20 yard line, and 10 punts of 50-plus yards. While his number of punts has increased each year — 60 in 2010, 68 in 2011 — and his average has gone down — 45.2 in 2010, 42.7 in 2011 — he has consistently given the Cyclones better field position with punts inside the 20. The Cyclone offense, too, has given Van Der Kamp a shorter field to punt from, which resulted in not only the lower averages but fewer punts of 50-plus yards, which also decreased each year — 19 in 2010, 15 in 2011. With his consistency and reliability, Coach Paul Rhoads called Van Der Kamp a “weapon.”
Senior Edwin Arceo gets the No. 1 spot on the depth chart but only because he has experience. In 2012, Arceo’s only season as a Cyclone, the Muscatine native went 12 of 18 on field goals and 37 of 40 on extra points. Arceo showed some range, hitting two field goals of 50 yards or longer, and hit a 51-yarder at home against Oklahoma. Arceo’s inconsistency in all situations opened the door for red-shirt freshman counterpart Cole Netten to join in the “open competition” for the starting job.
Netten, an Ankeny native, was a well-publicized recruit during his senior season in 2011. Netten went 11 of 14 on field goals in his senior high school season, with a long of 47 yards, and was 48 of 51 on extra points. Netten said his red-shirt season was of great benefit to him, being able to travel with the team, yet not having to feel the pressure as a freshman. Arceo and Netten said at media day that the race for the starting kicker position has pushed both to work harder and perform. A starting kicker likely won’t be announced until days before the season opener Aug. 31 against Northern Iowa.
Who ever the starter is, the kickers will need to adjust to a new holder. Brett Bueker has graduated, and senior Justin Coleman takes over.
Jarvis West will once again field kickoffs in his junior season but also adds punt returning duties with the departure of Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz. The speedster West returned 16 kicks last season with an average return of 21.1 yards. His speed and agility translated from the return game to offense as well, where he had 31 catches for 290 yards and three touchdowns. With a young quarterback and retooled offensive line, West’s ability to give the Cyclones good starting field position in kickoff and punt returns will have a direct impact on offensive success.
— Jeremiah Davis