IOWA CITY, Iowa – It’s that time of year again for the list of indispensable Hawkeyes. For the 2017 rundown, I’m going to release my Top 15 via a countdown. Each day I’ll unveil a new player heading to No. 1.
A lot of media outlets weigh in on the most “important” Iowa players before the season. Everyone uses their own criteria.
For me, it’s not only what a given individual brings to the field, but also who’s projected to be behind him. That’s an important piece to the puzzle. That said, sometimes the backup fills in admirably as cornerback Manny Rugamba did last year.
As with most of these lists, they’re open for interpretation and debate. That’s the fun part of compiling them during the dog days of summer.
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No. 8 – Keith Duncan, K
Projected backup – Miguel Recinos
Why He’s Here: Duncan joined Rob Houghtlin and Marshall Koehn as Hawkeye kickers with memorable game-ending field goals. His 33-yarder emptied the stands at Kinnick Stadium as Iowa took down undefeated and second-ranked Michigan last November.
The true freshman walk-on from North Carolina was more than one big kick, however. He connected on 38-39 PAT attempts (one blocked) and 9-11 field goal attempts, scoring 65 points.
In case you just showed up around here, you might not know the Hawkeyes play a lot of close games. It magnifies the importance of the place kicker. Duncan’s accuracy is a weapon.
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The Hawkeyes didn’t get involved with Duncan until January of his senior year. He visited a few weeks later and decided to walk on. Few fans even knew his name before the season started.
He emerged from a pack of contenders to replace Koehn during last August’s camp. He beat out Recinos and scholarship kicker Mick Ellis, who left the team this spring.
Duncan is looking to add distance to his accuracy this season. Recinos owns the bigger leg and took the longer attempts last year, connecting on 1 of 3 (made 47-yarder, missed from 50 and 47).
Recinos could conceivably handle the kick-off duties after backing up the now-departed Ron Coluzzi in that role last season. That would save Duncan’s leg for the majority of field goal attempts. It could be a valuable tandem.
Iowa’s schedule ramps up this season. It will be in close games. Duncan again will get a chance to play hero and the Hawkeyes are lucky to have a reliable, mentally-tough individual in that role.