The Arizona Wildcats had the luxury of having two experienced kickers on special teams over the last two seasons, with Casey Skowron taking over the place-kicking duties in 2014 and Drew Riggleman taking over the punter role a year before that.
Now, Arizona will have to replace both of them, and there seems to be no clear-cut favorite to win the job either. In 2016, this is going to be where Arizona fans realize how good things were on special teams. Josh Pollack seems to have edge as the place-kicker, with punting duties still up in the air.
Drew Riggleman was a guy who I felt was extremely underappreciated. His placement constantly pinned the opposing offenses deep and very rarely allowed for a return with his rugby-style kick. He averaged over 45 yards a punt, good for sixth among power five schools.
The kicking game is where things will definitely be noticeable. Towards the end of the 2015 season, Rich Rodriguez had a lot of confidence in Skowron, opting to throw him out there for multiple 40-plus yard field goals. Those were normally spots where Rodriguez would have opted to go for it, but instead placed the burden on his senior kicker's foot.
To be honest, I was a little worried about the consistency in the kicking game to start the season. Skowron missed two extra points in the first four games, and also missed a 29-yard field goal. But after the UCLA game, he went 15-17 on the season, including 5-6 from 40-plus yards out.
His 2014 season might be overshadowed by his missed game-winning field goal against USC, which would have definitely put Arizona in the top eight of the polls. But his leg propelled Arizona to the win over UTSA, and he put the team in position to beat Cal, successfully converting the onside kick to get within one score.
The same applies for the USC game. Had Skowron failed to convert the onside kick, there would have been no harm, no foul. But he converted it, allowing the Wildcats to inch closer to win the ball game. The field goal itself wasn't even close and the blame was instantly placed on Skowron. Sadly, that's how some folks will remember him.
We also can't forget about Riggleman scooping it over to Skowron for a touchdown run vs. Washington back in 2014. Skowron also got his USC-game redemption, knocking in the game-winning field goal to down the Huskies.
All in all, these are two guys who were All-Pac-12. They were two senior leaders that provided a whole lot to this team, and will truly be missed going forward. There's some youth on special teams now, so maybe those younger guys can make strides similar to those of Skowron and Riggleman.
Whether it's field position, or having the confidence in the kicker, the difference between special teams from these last few years to this year will certainly be noticeable.