Being a special teams coach isn't the best gig in the world, and not even success to the point of being named the best in the college football business is enough to warrant more than one or two hundred words stuffed into the back of the sports briefs page in the local newspaper.
So when Joe Robinson left Arizona football's position of special teams coach after serving as such from 2004-07, his departure to a more renowned football team and his alma mater at LSU probably didn't sound any alarms around Tucson. Looking at the situation in the ensuing years and now at the current state of the third wheel to the Wildcat's football squad, maybe those sirens should have rang -- and loud.
He left LSU in February to take a position as defensive line coach at North Carolina; that came after being named the Football Scoop Special Teams Coach of the Year in NCAA football.
At 'Zona, however, he had already tallied enough of an impressive resume to be considered such. Those were the days when Arizona had some of the best kickers in the game.
Danny Baugher dabbled across the rosters of the New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos. That was after he earned All-American First Team honors as punter and was a Ray Guy Finalist in 2005. Placekicker Nick Folk learned under Robinson's tutelage before becoming a starting kicker, first for the Dallas Cowboys and most recently for the New York Jets.
Robinson was also at his last year in Arizona when now graduated punter Keenyn Crier was a redshirt freshman. In his first year of action, Crier was the Pac-10's All-Conference First Team player at his position.
And Crier's numbers steadily decreased following his coach's departure. Sure, as a kicker, average yardage is dependent upon how close to the goal line the offense is getting, but he had more touch in placing inside the 20-yard line and also in producing the booming kicks he was capable of launching early in his career.
Year P Yds Avg Lg TB FC In20 2007 59 2577 43.7 83 6 11 22 2008 48 2109 43.9 69 5 8 16 2009 57 2363 41.5 68 7 8 13
2010 48 1936 40.3 62 6 11 10
Of course, breaking down one player's numbers and attributing it to one of a thousand inconsistencies that go on with his football team doesn't mean I'm correct. But the talent level at the placekicking positions also has fizzled following Robinson's leave.
What would have transpired had Robinson stuck around in Tucson? Would Alex Zendejas have already found himself? We don't have answers for that, but now, former Wildcat player Jeff Hammerschmidt needs to find the magic that Robinson took with him if he hopes to turn the Arizona kickers from disadvantage to advantage.
WILL THE KICKING AND PUNTING GAME REVERT BACK TO A STRENGTH FOR THE WILDCATS IN 2011?