Iowa State special teams has new faces for next season

Iowa State head football coach Matt Campbell paces on the sideline after West Virginia recovered a fumbled snap on Nov. 26 at Jack Trice Stadium. West Virginia defeated Iowa State by a final score of 49-19.

Brian Mozey

When people think about last football season’s senior class, there are a few common names that pop up.

Allen Lazard. Joel Lanning. Jake Campos. Kamari Cotton-Moya.

Players on the defense and players on the offense.

What people don’t think of is the two main special teams players who were seniors as well. Punter Colin Downing and kicker Garrett Owens finished their last college football game in Memphis, Tennessee, when Iowa State won the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Dec. 30.

Matt Campbell knew these two players were going to be gone after the 2017 season, so he was looking to replace them with new recruits throughout the season.

Punter Corey Dunn and kicker Brayden Narveson signed at the early signing day period in the middle of December to solidify Campbell’s special teams’ leaders.

“We don’t scholarship guys unless we think their power and their improvement is the ability to help our football team be successful,” Campbell said.

Dunn is a veteran. At the age of 25, Dunn is coming to Ames as a redshirt sophomore and one of the most highly recruited punters in the class of 2018.

He also comes from outside the states; a town called Numurkah, Australia. Campbell said Dunn wanted to try American football and came to City College of San Francisco to experience his first year as a punter.

He averaged 40.1 yards per punt on 33 attempts over the course of the season. Dunn also punted 10 balls inside the 20-yard line with his longest punt calculated at 64 yards.

Campbell said he likes that Dunn spent a season in the United States to get familiar with the rules and expectations of college football.

“He’s a veteran,” Campbell said. “He’s already experienced coming over from Australia to the United States, having success in the United States, going through some of these big jumps experiencing college.”

Dunn is a two-star punter, according to 247Sports Composite Rating, but is ranked first in the punting position for JUCO players.

Campbell will look to have Dunn replace Downing for next season, but Campbell has said the JUCO punter isn’t the only player who’s competing for that spot.

Downing was the face of special teams for his four years at Iowa State. Over his four-year career, he punted for 9,944 yards on 246 punts, averaging 40.42 yards per punt. His longest punt in his career was 67 yards during his junior year and he had 79 punts inside the 20-yard line over his career.

“I think he’s certainly ready made in a lot of ways to come in and take over that responsibility,” Campbell said. “We certainly have young men in our program that are gonna compete with him. I’m really excited Corey is one of the, literally if not the best, one of the best in the country.”

Then, turn your attention to Narveson. He’s from the United States, specifically Scottsdale, Arizona.

He’s a three-star kicker, according to 247Sports Composite, and is ranked 12th in the kicking position and 23rd in the state of Arizona.

Narveson has a big leg and his statistics from last season proved it. He kicked 63 kickoffs and 49 of them were touchbacks.

Along with his kickoffs, he went 10-for-15 on field goal attempts while connecting on a 58-yard field goal. He also hit 40 of his 43 extra point attempts throughout his senior season.

“Brayden comes in and he’s a guy that’s in the kicking situation where he’s a true freshman and he’s got a phenomenal ability, but we also got some guys in the program too where we don’t have to give him everything,” Campbell said. “We can let Brayden kind of slowly continue to take his craft and push it, but Brayden’s here, he’s going to be here all spring long.”

Campbell is excited to have him at Iowa State this spring and learning his position in college football during the spring practice time. Even though Narveson was recruited this season, Campbell wanted to make it clear that he isn’t guaranteed the starting kicker spot.

“He gets to make mistakes,” Campbell said. “So, there’s some competition which I think is really good and he gets to feel the pressure of that and experience that and do that.”

Iowa State has former starting kicker Owens graduating this May, but there are five place kickers on the roster, including Narveson. Campbell mentioned names like redshirt sophomore Connor Assalley and redshirt senior Chris Francis that could be competition for Narveson.

Campbell expects Narveson to be a vital player on the special team’s unit, but he can see multiple kickers having an impact on the 2018 season.

“Joe Houston has done an incredible job with our specialists,” Campbell said. “Their performance has shown why [he’s done an incredible job].”