Special Teams is an area Arizona Football has potential to excel, and the guy in charge of special teams personnel and plans is coach Jordan Paopao.
The two players on the 2021 Arizona Football team that received the most accolades and recognition were wide receiver Stanley Berryhill III who is now an Atlanta Falcon and Kyle Ostendorp. Ostendorp, a junior punter that was named to the 2021 All Pac-12 First Team and AP All Pac-12 First Team.
The Phoenix native earned those honors by leading the conference with a 49.2 yds per punt average, which broke the old Arizona school record. A Pac-12 leading 28 punts that traveled 50+ yards which created a flip the field scenario.
My personal favorite is his booming punts with extended hang time, and let’s not forget about his ball placement abilities.
For his efforts, Ostendorp has been placed on the pre season Ray Guy award watch list. He is a guy coach Jordan Paopao and head coach Jedd Fisch can be confident in because he is a smart football player with a vision for what’s next on 4th down and understands what he needs to do in various situations.
Kyle is currently majoring in Aerospace Engineering, and I am sure he has leveraged his classroom knowledge for use as a punter.
Tyler Loop is sophomore kicker for the Cats, and is a native of Lucas, TX. He finished 2021 an excellent 12 for 12 on field goals, and in 2022, Loop takes over kicking duties full time now that Lucas Havrisik has graduated.
Haversik was used for longer field goal attempts, usually 45 yards or greater; however, Loop came on mid season and handled point after attempts and missed none, and connected on a 42-yard field goal which was his long.
When given opportunities, he has shined. In 2022, Loop assumes the role of No. 1 kicker and has been placed on the pre season Lou Groza award watch list.
Seth Mackellar, a junior long snapper, the San Juan Capistrano, California native played in all 12 games last season and performed superbly.
This is a position that often gets overlooked by many but not by me. This is a skilled position that not everyone can master. Most importantly, is their cohesion and bond among these specialists, Ostendorp, Loop, and Mackellar. This group pushes each other toward high standards.
On kick off, kick off receiving, and punt teams I see players like Nazar Bombata, Jashon Butler, Isaiah Taylor, Anthony Solomon, James Bohls, Jaydin Young, Ammon Allen, Josh Donovan, JT Hand, DJ Warnell Jr, and Treydan Stukes.
I expect Josh Donovan to anchor the line on punt team, take charge and get guys lined up with help from a guy like JT Hand, who by the way, Hand is moving exceptionally fast for an offensive lineman, for that reason I can see him in an important role like punt team with Donovan.
Warnell Jr, Stukes, and Young are candidates for a gunner role.
Anthony Solomon has also impressed me. He finds a way to be at the right place at the right time and he can lay down a hard hit.
On kick off returns, I hope to see Rayshon “Speedy” Luke, although a freshman, I hope will be given the opportunity to return kicks starting game one. Yes, there will be butterflies, especially for the first game. Everyone gets butterflies, it’s normal. However, the butterflies need to fly away fast for every player and allow for focus and managing game day emotions.
I hope Fisch and company give Speedy Luke a chance and not hold him back because he’s a freshman. All freshman will make mistakes. I say get a guy like Luke started on his way now returning kicks.
Also on kick off returns and punt returns, look for these players in the mix: Jacob Cowing, Dorian Singer, Kevin Green Jr, Anthony Simpson, Stevie Rocker Jr and Jaxen Turner.
Head Coach Jedd Fisch considers 2021 year zero, as lots of lessons were learned. 2022 is year one. That means there is little time for fear. This team has a balanced roster of veterans and stellar new recruits. The coaches have the responsibility of accurately managing to the strengths of their personnel assigned to the roster.
Arizona needs to bring the toughness right out of the tunnel in San Diego. I hope the 2022 Arizona Football team shows up every Saturday with an “If you want blood you got it” mentality, especially on special teams.
I look for coach Paopao to invest equal or even more effort into special teams as he does as the tight ends coach. I’m excited to see Jordan Paopapo steer the ship as special teams coach/leader.