PUNTER JOHN WIENKE, JONNY MULLINGS
Arrival: Two very, very different paths.
Wienke came to Iowa after committing to Michigan. He was an Elite 11 QB, a corps of prep quarterbacks who are handpicked for a summer camp designed to help them hone their skills. It’s highly selective, but it’s not a launch pad to stardom. Since he arrived, Wienke has seen the No. 1 QB job go to a three-year starter (Rick Stanzi) and now a two-year (James Vandenberg).
Instead of moping and heading to an FCS or MAC school, Wienke asked what he could do. He took over as holder for field goals. Last spring, he tried punting. Eventually, it became more than a whim. He worked his way to No. 2 behind Eric Guthrie. He’s poised to be No. 1 this fall.
Mullings came to Iowa City via Australia. He was an exchange student in Ottumwa and showed off a consistently strong leg. Iowa offered a scholarship and he accepted. Mullings will be a third-year sophomore this fall and is looking for his first punt.
2012 Takeoff: It’s not good that Iowa has two slots in this particular list of 45 taken up by punters. Wienke might hold a slight edge on Mullings and Connor Kornbrath, an incoming freshman listed at No. 42 here, but head coach Kirk Ferentz has said the job is wide open.
“We don’t have our punting position settled by any stretch,” Ferentz said at the end of spring.
We’ll find out more about Kornbrath in August. We know a little about Wienke and Mullings. During spring scrimmage, Wienke had the quicker release, but Mullings had the stronger leg. Wienke got his single punt attempt off quickly for 39 yards. Mullings probably took a count too long, but his punts sailed 46 and 41 yards.
Assistant coach Lester Erb is in charge of the punters. When he spoke to the media this spring, he used the word “competition” a lot.
“Coach [Ferentz] alluded to it again, Jonny Mullings and John Wienke will be competing for that title job here throughout spring ball,” Erb said. “. . . Obviously Connor will come in here and have a chance to compete for the job here in fall, also.”
Time will tell if Kornbrath is really in it. Iowa’s last true freshman punter was Reggie Roby (1979-82), Iowa’s all-timer at punter (45.5 career average).
It’s not a slam dunk for Wienke. Mullings isn’t out of it and does have a lively leg. August camp will be where this is sorted out. Iowa historically hasn’t messed around, so don’t look for a “pooch” specialist. Perhaps, someone in this group could emerge as the kickoff specialist, but with kickoffs being moved to the 35, that will be handed by Mike Meyer or Marshall Koehn.