Most people rely on wifi more than they notice but are annoyed when it falls through. The same goes for the third phase of a football game — special teams.
A hooked field goal tends to be followed by groans and maybe swears. An internet outage leads to just as much frustration.
If a fan has to sacrifice some snaps to run to the restroom or grab something from the concession stands, special teams usually fills that role. Most of the time, Jack Trice Stadium fills in sparsely at the second half kickoff.
While fans may prioritize a starting quarterback or linebacker over the punter or place kicker, special teams swings games, at times, just as much. This trio of players could decide games for the Cyclones in 2019.
Flash back to Iowa State’s 2018 opener against Iowa. Both offenses faltered most of the game, and the defenses flexed their muscles.
What majorly affected the low-scoring affair? You guessed it: special teams.
Iowa State punter Corey Dunn missed an opportunity to begin his career at home due to the cancelation of the South Dakota State game.
As a result, Dunn entered the hostile environment of Kinnick Stadium and struggled. Dunn’s first career punt for the Cyclones shanked off the side of his foot for a net of 14 yards.
With the rough start, Iowa State kept relying on Dunn, and Dunn continued to flounder. The then-redshirt sophomore booted his second punt for 37 yards and shanked his third punt, netting 13 yards.
Dunn salvaged some of his average on the day by booming 57 and 58-yard punts later in the game.
Similar to the Iowa game, Dunn shined at times in 2018, and he failed at times during the year. With a year in Ames under his belt, the redshirt junior needs to improve his consistency.
The special teams continuity provides a key to Dunn’s consistency. Steve Wirtel enters 2019 for his fourth season handling the long-snapping duties for the Cyclones.
So while Dunn will go under the radar this spring, pay attention to his consistency in the fall. While the 10 50-plus yard punts look nice (especially his season high 65-yarder), if Dunn eliminates the stinkers, Iowa State adds an advantage in the “details” that Matt Campbell loves to preach about.
Connor Assalley/Brayden Narveson
A historically bad position at Iowa State — placekicker — features some competition this year. Walk-on Connor Assalley handled the kicking duties in 2018, showing consistency on shorter field goals.
The redshirt junior knocked in 13-of-16 field goal attempts from 39-yards or closer. As the distance increased, Assalley’s success didn’t. Assalley connected on 3-of-7 field goals from 40-yards and beyond, but he drilled a season-long 50-yarder against Washington State in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
Outside of Assalley, Iowa State added the talented redshirt freshman Brayden Narveson to the mix last season. Narveson used his redshirt season last year, but the Arizona native garnered quite a bit of attention late in his high school career.
Narveson secured a three-star ranking from 247Sports.com, ranking No. 12 in his class at kicker. Narveson also injects a strong leg into the mix compared to Assalley. Narveson nailed a 58-yard field goal in his senior season of high school, but it remains to be seen if that translates to college.
Regardless of who wins the job, the Cyclones possess options at the position.
If you like speedy returners, Iowa State has you covered (including punt returner and wide receiver Tarique Milton). Nwangwu contributed as a field position weapon to the Cyclones last season, averaging almost 27 yards per return.
Nwangwu failed to take any kickoffs to the house this season, but he managed to scamper for 58 yards against Texas Tech with a couple 40-plus yard returns early in the season.
With Nwangwu poised to shoulder a bigger role in the offense with David Montgomery’s departure, the redshirt junior holds multiple avenues to impacting a game.
The speedy Texan presents another under-talked-about piece to Iowa State, but Nwangwu holds a position that receives the most opportunities to swing momentum.
If you watch the Cyclones in 2019, you don’t want to get out of your seat for a Nwangwu return.