Quarterback isn’t the only position Arizona has a fierce competition at. The Wildcats also have an ongoing battle at punter and the current frontrunner in that race might surprise you.
“I think (Kyle) Ostendorp right now is probably the guy who’s leading the punting, but every day is a new day,” said linebackers coach Keith Dudzinski, who also coaches special teams.
Competing with Ostendorp is redshirt senior Jacob Meeker-Hackett and second-year freshman Tyler Loop. Loop, who like Ostendorp is on scholarship, looked like the favorite earlier in camp when he was booting balls over 60 yards with plenty of hang time.
Not only that, but Loop is coming off a strong 2020 season in which he averaged 43 yards per punt, good for fifth in the Pac-12. Six of Loop’s 24 punts traveled 50+ yards, including one for 64 yards. He also landed eight punts inside the 20-yard line compared to just two touchbacks.
Yet, it’s Ostendorp, who averaged 39.7 yards per punt as Arizona’s starter in 2019, with the hot foot right now.
“I think in the scrimmage the other day he was somewhere around 50, 51 yards per punt and with great hang time and great positioning, where the other guys weren’t quite as hot,” Dudzinski said.
Still, Dudzinski is not ready to name a starter. Same goes for the placekicking position where Loop is battling with fifth-year senior Lucas Havrisik. Whether they are playing CAT—the kicker version of HORSE—or going back and forth with friendly banter during scrimmages, the two are feeding off each other.
“Loop’s a competitor,” Havrisik said. “He loves competing with me, he likes pushing me. We could be playing anything outside of football and he wants to beat me. So I like that culture around me, and that environment of competition and he brings that to the table everyday.”
If neither is able to separate themselves as the superior kicker, Havrisik will likely be Arizona’s starter.
“Obviously if it comes down to experience, I think Lucas is going to get the nod there,” Dudzinski said.
Loop has never attempted a field goal or extra point in a college game. Havrisik, known for his big leg, has made 25 of his 39 career field goal attempts and 70 of his 75 extra points. 2020 was Havrisik’s best season to date. He made six of seven field goals and nine of 10 extra points.
Havrisik credits his improved accuracy to a relaxed mindset.
“We’re kickers, it’s kind of like golf,” he said on local media day. “People put too much stress on themselves. Just go out there and have fun, kick the ball, and keep it simple.”