Kirk Ferentz still considering punt return plan: 'It's hard to return punts'
Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday October 15, 2013
Kirk Ferentz made headlines a week ago when he said he was considering not having his Hawkeyes return another punt.
The reasoning was that Iowa has been burned by six fake punts since 2010, and there was a costly one in the prior weekend’s game against Michigan State.
It seemed a little ridiculous and quickly spread.
“Boy, that got quite a national response,” Ferentz said Tuesday. “Better watch what I say. Maybe I should make something up. But, anyway, I'm not real interested in seeing another fake. So whatever it takes to stop the fake, we'll do that. I went home that night and saw one in the Northwestern-Ohio State game, too. Can't get away from it. We'll see what we can do.”
But how ridiculous is that take? At look at the stats shows that only 12 teams are averaging at least three returns per game, and that will probably go down. No team reached that mark last season. The point would be for an Iowa return man to be there simply to make a fair catch, because the blocking would be watching out for a fake.
The Hawkeyes average 1.8 returns per game. They have 11 returns on the year, but those have picked up 240 yards (21.8 average) and two touchdowns, both against Western Michigan. If you take the two touchdowns away, Iowa is still averaging 10.4 yards per punt return.
That field position can be valuable. Iowa picks up 40 yards per game on punt returns. But Ferentz believes the reward of one or two punt returns per game might not outweigh the effect of a fake. There just aren’t many opportunities to make a return.
“It's hard to return punts. It really is,” he said. “It's become more difficult, but mainly because of the nature of our rules in college football, which I think really need to be addressed. I've said that for about as long as I've been saying they should replay onside kicks to make sure the mechanics are correct. But those are both falling on deaf ears. We have some more interesting rules that are getting more attention. Enough said on that.
“But it is difficult to return punts. It is a challenge. If you have a really dynamic punt returner, it's a good thing. But you have to make sure you can field the ball first.”
Iowa plays Ohio State this week. The Buckeyes have allowed opponents to return just one punt for three yards this season, so perhaps Ferentz’s decision won’t be very difficult.