Fall camp is usually when position battles are won or lost, but the Arizona Wildcats are still sorting some out as they prepare for a critical home game against Texas Tech.
An obvious one being at punter, where Kevin Sumlin called his team “hit or miss” so far, which is putting it lightly. The Wildcats rank 125th (of 130) in FBS in yards per punt (35.57).
Redshirt senior Matt Aragon started against Hawaii and booted five punts for 173 yards, an average of 34.6 yards, with a long of 43. True freshman Kyle Ostendorp got the nod against NAU and unleashed two punts for 76 yards, an average of 38 yards, with a long of 42.
“(Averaging) 38 yards is not good enough,” Sumlin said Monday. “And the way the ball is being punted … we had a line drive, we had a short one. It’s about the same as it was (at Hawaii). We went with the young guy (Ostendorp) this week. We’ll have another competition this week.”
Sumlin said that applies to other positions as well. He noted that freshman long snapper Seth MacKellar started against NAU (and fared well, even though Sumlin admitted he was nervous about playing him.)
“Guys that have played a little bit and maybe not have been as effective, we’re not in a business of just throwing guys on the bench, but we’re gonna have some competitions at some of these positions where guys who have been in have been inconsistent,” Sumlin said.
“I think that’s the fair way to do it. If...we’re not getting production of a position but you can prove during practice and can compete that way during practice, you’re going to earn the right to start and play and that’s where we’re at right now.”
Especially on defense, where the Wildcats are allowing 43 points per game and just surrendered 41 to NAU, with 28 of them coming in the second half, mostly against second- and third-stringers.
The upside is the 24-point win allowed the coaching staff to rotate lots of players, helping them figure out who is—and isn’t—ready to contribute moving forward.
“You’ve got a tale of two halves,” Sumlin said. “It was 51-13 at halftime, and then you’ve got other guys out there. You’ve got a communication problem with some guys that were playing in different positions, new guys that were out there jumping out of gaps in front. (Kyon) Barrs is going to be a great player…but at the same time he jumped out of a couple gaps and that hurt us. That’s part of a young player coming along. (We played) a lot of guys who’ve never played before. I think there was a lack of focus. (They knew) what the expectations were for guys to come into the game and play this game, and those expectations were not met.”