The kicking duties are likely to be split up for the Arizona Wildcats this season, as freshman Lucas Havrisik is emerging as the kickoff specialist.
“Lucas has been kicking the ball off tremendously, I mean really good,” Head coach Rich Rodriguez said this week. “I mean that was the reason why we brought him in.”
The Arizona coaching staff focused on adding a kickoff specialist in the 2017 recruiting class. First, they offered former Baylor kicker Spencer Evans, who ended up having transcript issues after bouncing around a few community colleges.
That’s when the staff looked looked to Havrisik. Charlie Ragle recruited him out of Norco High School (Norco, Calif.), where Havrisik was ranked as a five-star kicking prospect, and the No. 4 kicker in the 2017 class.
Havrisik has an extremely strong leg, and came in with the opportunity to win some special team duties as a freshman, considering the fact that Josh Pollack took over as the kickoff, field goal and punting specialist in 2016.
A few weeks ago, Havrisik came in at No. 5 on my list of top freshmen who could make an immediate impact in 2017. And when you break down the special teams units, and factor in Havrisik’s skillset, it seemed likely that he was in the lead to win the kickoff job.
“He kicked off well, really well today. I think we’re going to have some real competition for the coverage unit, and it’s not close yet, but in a couple days Coach Knorr and the staff, we have to pair that down,” Rodriguez said about those surrounding Havrisik.
Just before fall camp, Havrisik knocked in three 60-yard field goals in a row. While both the power and accuracy are there for Havrisik, things get a lot more complicated with the mental aspect of a live snap and hold.
At Norco High, Havrisik went 11/16 on field goals, with longs of 43, 44, 47, 48, and two from 51 yards out. He punted 40 times for 1,591 yards, averaging just under 40 yards a boot. He kicked off 87 times, forcing a touchback on 82 of those instances. He averaged over 70 yards a kickoff.
Last season, Pollack was 8/8 from inside the 40-yard line, but things got a little shaky outside of that, hitting just 1/6 from 40-plus yards. He kicked off 24 times, and forced five touchbacks, meanwhile he averaged just over 42 yards per punt.