IOWA CITY - Former Marshalltown Bobcat Tyler Kluver is just one injury away from stepping onto the field for the University of Iowa football team as a true freshman.
Kluver comes into the season as the backup long snapper behind senior Casey Kreiter, but Iowa assistant coach Chris White said the former Bobcat all-state linebacker needs to be ready to play.
"He is our second-string long snapper, so if Casey gets hurt, he needs to be in there," said White at Iowa's annual football media day last Thursday. "It's an ideal situation for him though. He has to learn from Casey this year. The coaching staff would like to redshirt him, but he may have to play for us too."
T-R FILE PHOTO
Marshalltown’s Tyler Kluver runs onto the UNI-Dome field prior to kickoff at the 2013 Iowa Shrine All Star Football Classic on July 27 in Cedar Falls. Kluver is currently in football camp with the Iowa Hawkeyes as the team’s second-string long-snapper.
Kluver joined the Hawkeye football team as a preferred walk-on this year and expects to pick up Kreiter's scholarship when he takes over long snapping duties full time next season.
His role on this year's team is still up in the air, but Kreiter said his backup has already shown he is ready to take the field if he's called upon.
"I think he is picking it up pretty well," said Kreiter. "It is a big transition from high school, but (Kluver) went to so many camps that he was ready for the changes you see in college.
"These first two to three weeks of camp is a great time to ask questions to learn. Once the season starts, I will have to focus on the games. I will be here for him, and he has a good mentality so far."
Kreiter welcomes questions. He wants to help Kluver any way he can. The Marshalltown native is ready to listen.
"He knows the ropes. He is going to be my mentor basically," said Kluver. "He will probably be one of my best friends for the year that we are together. I will be with him at every practice and every workout. He has done it and was in the same situation that I'm now in."
Kreiter also came into Iowa as a preferred walk-on his freshman season. His route to the starting job was similar to the path Kluver will take. The only difference would be if Kluver is forced into the lineup this season.
"Everyone is bigger, faster and stronger, but he can fire it back there," said White, who is responsible for the running backs and the special teams. "He is going to have to learn how to protect. But so far he is showing us he can protect."
Hawkeye offensive line coach Brian Ferentz admitted at media day that he doesn't work a lot with the special teams. However, he said Kluver reminded the coaching staff of Kreiter, which is a high compliment.
"Kreiter is an excellent football player and an excellent Hawkeye," Ferentz said. "The goal was to bring in a guy that can snap the ball and cover a little bit. We knew (Kluver) was going to work hard, we knew he was smart and we knew he was tough. Those are things that we put a premium on."
Besides Kreiter, Kluver will have to get to know kicker Mike Meyer and punter Connor Kornbrath. And if Kluver, who will wear No. 97 at Iowa, gets into the lineup in 2013, Kornbrath has no doubt he will be up for the challenge.
"The blocking schemes are going to be his biggest obstacle, but I feel like he will be up for the challenge if we have to use him," said the Hawkeye punter. "He is definitely a good long snapper. He is consistent, and he has a very fast snap."
True freshmen and first-year players were not allowed to attend the annual media day at Iowa, but when talking with Kluver after the shrine bowl last month, he said that a redshirt was likely to be in his future. But no matter what happens, he is excited for a new adventure in Iowa City.
"I want it to be an easy process and redshirting will allow me to get comfortable with things," Kluver said. "Everything speeds up obviously. I will have to work on time management because of the heavier schedule with practice, work, meetings and games."
Kluver has seen many games at Kinnick Stadium while growing up in Marshalltown. And his dad Todd Kluver played for the Hawkeyes, too.
That just made it easier to recruit Tyler, according to Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.
"It always helps when the athletes grew up Iowa fans," said Kirk Ferentz. "It means a little bit more to those players. It was part of what they did growing up. It tends to mean a little bit more to them. This is their school."
Kluver came into Iowa as the No. 2 prep long snapper in the nation as ranked by kohlskicking.com and No. 4 in the country by ESPN.com.
He had quite the final year at Marshalltown. After being selected as an all-state linebacker, Kluver participated in the Under Armour All-American Game in January. He is only the second Iowa high school athlete to play in the game - the other being former Hawkeye wide receiver Keenan Davis.
Kluver then took part in the Iowa Shrine All Star Football Classic last month and played linebacker and long-snapper for the winning South squad.
With Kreiter graduating after this season, Kirk Ferentz admitted that long-snapper was a position of need this past recruiting season.
"That position was a real concern for us coming into the year, but we are just fortunate to have Tyler here," said Ferentz. "He had a real good high school career and we expect nothing but the same here. It's early, but so far so good for him."
Long-snappers will never play a huge role in winning games, but a botched snap can certainly lead to a loss. That is why Kreiter said he wants as few people as possible to know who he and Kluver are.
"You don't want to know my name," said Kreiter. "That is not a good thing. We certainly won't win many games, but we can help lose them. If we botch a snap, there is strong chance that we lose the game. I take it as a compliment when someone says they have never heard of me."
Kluver can only hope for the same thing.