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Arizona football: Last season’s punting issues are a thing of the past

Wildcats were last in FBS in 2017

arizona-football-punting-wildcats-2018-training-camp Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It wasn’t that long ago that the Arizona Wildcats were one of the best punting teams in college football. From 2014-16 they ranked among the top 50 teams in FBS in punting average, the 45.6-yard rate in 2014 the best in school history.

Last year? Not so much.

Punting was without a doubt Arizona’s biggest weakness in 2017, so much so that offensive lineman Gerhard de Beer openly advocated—but was never given the chance—to line up deep. He probably couldn’t have been worse than what Jake Glatting and Josh Pollack combined to do.

Arizona averaged 34.2 yards per punt last year, dead last in FBS and more than three yards lower than the next-worst Pac-12 school (Oregon, at 37.6). The Wildcats averaged 32.2 yards on punts in conference play and during their rough November that rate dropped to 28.9.

The usual Wildcat fan’s reaction when the punting team came out last year?

New special teams coach Jeremy Springer is well aware of recent punting issues, but he’s not dwelling on the past or holding that against any returners on special teams.

“I wanted to come in with a fresh start and let those guys not be judged from what they did in the past because that wasn’t me coaching them,” Springer said Tuesday. “Now it’s me, so it’s on me. So throughout the spring, I worked with them, judging for myself, (in the) summertime, judging for myself and now fall camp, I’ll judge them for myself.”

One player Springer has yet to fully evaluate is Dylan Klumph, a graduate transfer from California who is expected to win the punting job. In 2017 he ranked fourth in the Pac-12 at 42.96 yards per attempt.

Klumph has yet to participate in fall practice while he awaits formal admission into his grad program. He had been originally scheduled to meet with reporters Tuesday but that was cancelled.

Springer said he’s well aware of what Klumph has done, and can do, but that doesn’t guarantee him Arizona’s starting job.

“I think he could come in and definitely help us, that’s why we brought him in,” Springer said. “But like I told him, and I tell everyone, it’s all a fresh start. He’s got to earn that right to play for us and he knows that, and I know he’s ready to do that.”

While not ideal, Springer said Klumph’s absence from camp isn’t as much an issue as it would be for most other special teamers.

“With the punting position, they’re working all summer and constantly working,” he said. “You’re not learning how to punch-block, cutoff-block, running down as a gunner and trying to tackle guys.”