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Arizona football roundtable: On expectations for the Wildcats and special teams

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Does fourth in the South sound right, and what if one guy is doing all the punting and kicking?

NCAA Football: Arizona at Utah Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we got our first real taste of Rich Rodriguez for the fall and what he thinks about some aspects of his team.

One thing that always comes out is the media poll, which picked the Arizona Wildcats to finish fourth in the Pac-12 South.

Another thing that came out that wasn’t QB-related was the fact that Josh Pollack appears to be the leader in the clubhouse to win both the place kicker and punter jobs.

So, let’s touch on these two things in this week’s roundtable:

Jason Bartel: Arizona was picked to finish 4th in the South...sound about right?

Gabe Encinas: Yes because I honestly don’t think the media would have ever thought to put Arizona above UCLA or USC, so that automatically puts them at third. I’m not entirely sold on Utah considering their losses of Travis Wilson and Devontae Booker, but they do have their gutsy, yet reliable defense and they might just end up being better than Arizona because of it. And then I expect both Arizona State and Colorado to finish with losing records, while I think the Wildcats finish with seven wins throughout the regular season, three of which come in non-conference play.

Alec Sills-Trausch: Yeah it sounds reasonable. For how much is unknown this season (cough cough defense) and with a quarterback battle seemingly going to take place all the way up to the final week, fourth place is a good estimate. Plus we’re ahead of ASU so all is right in the world. (PS: A poll in July means the same as a political poll in July. Much can change and no one expects it to be accurate.)

Brandon Combs: There are a lot of unknowns for Arizona right now so for the time being I’d say yes. The defense is the biggest unknown, however, I believe it will be better then last year’s. Another point is that playing in the Pac-12 is hectic and hard to predict. I agree with Alec on the fact that Arizona is ahead of ASU, so that is a plus. Once they start playing the conference schedule, we should get a better idea of where they will finish.

Toby Lason: Yes. I very much hope I’m wrong, but 4th place may actually be the best case scenario given the schedule. Reports show it’s among the easier in the conference, but I’m dubious. BYU is their toughest opening opponent in nearly a decade and there’s a six game stretch in the middle of the season in which they will almost assuredly be considered the underdog. Vegas currently has them only finishing ahead of Colorado in the South.

Steve Apter: I agree Toby. They will certainly be an underdog in their first five Pac-12 games this season (Washington, @UCLA, @Utah, USC, Stanford). Even if they pull out a couple wins, that's going to be a difficult early stretch to build any momentum with.

Ronnie Stoffle: I suppose this sounds right. You wouldn't expect them to be ahead of UCLA nor SC. You would certainly expect them to be ranked ahead of Colorado. I understand why ASU is predicted to finish fifth just as I understand UA is picked to finish fourth. I agree with ASU finishing fifth. I don't necessarily agree with Utah finishing third. There is a good chance that the Utes are nothing close to what they were last year. They lost more on offense, arguably, than anyone else in the Pac-12. Wilson (QB), Booker (RB), Scott (WR) and Poole (WR/RB) just to name a few. Also, Britain Covey (WR) will miss this season while he's on his Mission. I expect their defense to be solid as always. However, they could break down if the offense isn't moving the ball. UA's defense is just as much of an enigma as Utah's offense. Moreover, I think UA's offense will be more productive than Utah's defense. Thus the case for UA to finish third.

JB: What are your thoughts on one player handling both kicking and punting duties?

GE: I know it’s not ideal for Rich Rodriguez to have the same guy have both jobs, but if Josh Pollack is better at both then I don’t see any reason to compromise just to have two separate jobs. I felt like the specialists had been overlooked, especially last season, but this season fans will notice how much of an impact Casey Skowron and Drew Riggleman really had.

AST: If he can do the job, then I’m all for it. It probably shows that he has a strong leg and hopefully that means he’ll be able to extend the range of our field goal kicks… but we won’t know if it’s a good fit until he starts making - or missing - them come September.

BC: I don't see anything wrong with it. Pollack was creating a buzz during the spring and the staff feels he can handle both roles for the time being. As always, you want to make sure you have steady kickers/punters to help back Pollack up.

TL: You want your best punter to be the guy out there punting. You want your best kicker to be the guy out there kicking. If it’s the same guy, so be it - this team will likely need solid special teams to stay competitive. The only potential issue I see here is an increased injury risk, so hopefully the back ups are competent.

SA: I'm not a huge fan of it. Each role requires a very different style of preparation and technique. The kicking game can be very mental and I think this puts an awful lot on the plate of a guy who has one extra point and two kickoffs on his collegiate resume. If he had some success as a starter in one role for an entire season, then I think adding the additional duty makes more sense. Even if the other options aren't as good as Pollack right now on the practice field, I'd let them take their lumps at punter and let Josh focus on kicking/kickoffs for a season.

RS: I think Alec nailed it. If he can handle both, it works for me. Special teams might be tough to watch this year without Riggleman and Skowron, though. They spoiled us with consistency over the last two seasons. Whoever is assigned kicking and/or punting duties might feel pressure trying to live up to what those two were able to do.