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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Special teams in need of special treatment

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With the departure of Jason Bondzio, sophomore Alex Zendejas seemed destined to take over the role of the Arizona football team’s place kicker.

He had the pedigree, seeing as his uncle, Max Zendejas, is one of the best kickers in Wildcat gridiron history. Zendejas learned the ins and outs of the position from Bondzio, a player who followed in the footsteps of current Dallas Cowboys kicker Nick Folk.

Special teams coach Jeff Hammerschmidt even said Zendejas had a “”great spring”” and solid summer. But something just isn’t clicking for the sophomore as of now.

“”Mentally, at times he’s struggling,”” Hammerschmidt said. “”I think he’s very capable and he knows it. He’s very confident, he’s just got to get back into it. Right now he’s got a little something he’s got to straighten out.””

Zendejas — a 5-foot-11, 190-pound graduate of Ironwood High School in Glendale, Ariz. — has been having difficulties with his form. Hammerschmidt said he’s not keeping his head down long enough which doesn’t allow him to drive through the ball. The inconsistencies in his form also affect his accuracy, Hammerschmidt said.

Even UA head coach Mike Stoops commented on the kicker’s troubles during Monday’s weekly press conference, hinting that punter Keenyn Crier could see time as the placekicker if Zendejas can’t correct the problem before the Sept. 5 season opener against Central Michigan.

“”His technique has kind of gotten away from him lately and he loses confidence,”” Stoops said. “”It’s going to be important that we get him back in a good place before we open.””

But the reason for Zendejas’ troubles could be easier to spot than subtle head movement: look at the back of his jersey.

“”I’m not going to lie; there is pressure. The name is big, everybody knows the name out here,”” Zendejas said. “”All the fans, everybody knows my uncle and everybody has a story about my uncle. I can’t hide from it.””

“”But it’s good though,”” he added. “”I don’t mind it at all. I’m proud of what my uncle has done and the position I’m in.””

Hammerschmidt said that pressure is largely self-imposed by Zendejas, but he doesn’t think the weight of having to carry on a family legacy will affect him once the Wildcats start the regular season.

In fact, he sees the exact opposite.

Once the bright lights at Arizona Stadium flip on, Hammerschmidt fully expects Zendejas to be the player coaches expect him to be.

“”That’s how the Zendejas do it. They just wait for the big games and that’s what we’re waiting on,”” Hammerschmidt said. “”When he kicks it like he can kick it, he knocks the heck out of the ball. I think it’s just a mental block right now. He’s just got to get through it and keep his head down, and he’ll be fine.””

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