Aug. 11, 2009
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Special teams at the University of Iowa are indeed special.
Case in point: junior punter Ryan Donahue, who for the second consecutive season was named to the Ray Guy Award watch list. Last season Donahue earned second team all-Big Ten by league coaches and honorable mention sophomore All-American by CollegeFootballNews.com. He was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week following Iowa's 55-0 win at Minnesota on Nov. 22 when he punted four times for a 48.5-yard average.
"Coach Ferentz stresses special teams at every meeting," Donahue said. "We pride ourselves on them and we pride ourselves on winning every special team's battle every single game."
Since 2002, Ferentz-coached teams have had the 2002 Lou Groza Award winner (nation's top kicker), a finalist in 2003 and a semifinalist in 2005. Now Donahue is making news as a punter.
"I've been working on a whole bunch of technique stuff," Donahue said. "I've been trying to improve and build on it every single year. I try to build on the experience, try to build on the momentum and hopefully this season can be the most productive so far."
As a freshman in 2007, Donahue punted a school-record 86 times for an average of 41.1 yards per kick with a long of 82. He had 24 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line (27.9 percent) with 15 touchbacks (17.4 percent). As a sophomore, Donahue's percentage that ended inside the 20 improved to 38 percent (19 of 50) and the touchback percentage trimmed down to 14 percent. On 50 kicks last season, Donahue averaged 41.6 yards with 19 fair-catches.
"I try to separate myself by my work ethic," Donahue said. "I work on technique, I work on consistency and I like to work on hang time. I pride myself on my hang time and I've tried to add more and more distance."
"Coach Ferentz stresses special teams at every meeting. We pride ourselves on them and we pride ourselves on winning every special team's battle every single game."
UI junior punter
The Hawkeyes return 16 starters from a team that finished 9-4 last season with six wins in their final seven outings. Iowa scored the first 31 points during a 31-10 victory over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Among those returning for Iowa are punter Donahue and kickers Trent Mossbrucker and Daniel Murray.
"We're a talented young group," Donahue said. "We have guys chomping at the bit just to get on the field. We're just trying to do things the Iowa way and come out on top every single game."
In 2008, Donahue punted three times or less six times. His season average placed him seventh in the conference and 35th in the nation.
Donahue is a native of Evergreen Park, Ill., and as a senior at St. Rita High School he was named first team USA Today All-American. He holds the Illinois state high school record with a 90-yard punt in a playoff game.
The Hawkeyes participated in their fifth practice of the preseason Tuesday. It was their first practice in full pads. Iowa opens the season Saturday, Sept. 5, against intrastate rival Northern Iowa inside Kinnick Stadium. Donahue can't say enough about the support of Hawkeye fans.
"The Hawkeye fans are so good to us," he said. "We try to be good right back to them and give them a good show. It feels good when they're all supportive. It's amazing the atmosphere Kinnick Stadium creates."
To view an exclusive 21-image photo gallery of Tuesday's practice inside the Kenyon Practice Facility, click HERE.
The annual preseason Kid's Day scrimmage will be held Saturday, Aug. 15. For more information about the scrimmage, season tickets or FryFest (Sept. 4), click HERE.