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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Bonano helping UA move on from miserable recent kicker history

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Dating back to 2010, during the infamous ‘Alex Zendejas era,’ Arizona’s kicking game has been in shambles. That fact was no more evident than when Zendejas cost the Wildcats their rivalry game against ASU when he missed two extra points. Now, with the strong-legged John Bonano in tow, Arizona might finally have found some stability at the position.

With a season under his belt, the relationship between Bonano and the Wildcats appears to be flourishing, a far cry from the Zendejas years, as Arizona prepares for Toledo this Saturday.

“That’s the number one thing you’re always looking for is experience,” said special teams coach Spencer Leftwich about kickers and punters.

“Now [they] don’t have those jitters and the kids know how to prepare,” Leftwich added. “They know what to expect. They’ve been in the ball game, they’ve been in pressure situations.”

After fully assuming the place kicker role in week six, Bonano went 8-for-12 on field goals, with a long of 47-yards.

“He doesn’t have to over-swing to get it there,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “He’s got a strong leg.”

The senior’s ability from long range was evident last season, and is a reason why he’s done kickoffs for Arizona since 2009. Bonano missed only one field goal from 30 to 49-yards but missed two inside 30-yards.

Also, he did miss his only attempt beyond 50-yards, but 22 touchbacks show he has the potential to kick it through the uprights from that range.

But more importantly, Bonano was a perfect 24-for-24 on extra points and hasn’t missed one in his career.

“I don’t think too much about them,” he said. “I just figure an extra point is a ‘gimme’, it should be a chip shot. So I don’t let the pressure get to me. I just keep my head down and kick it straight, and that’s all you need to do on those.”

Last year Zendejas and then-junior Jaime Salazar both missed extra points during their starts at place kicker. The failure to convert easy kicks made Wildcat fans restless, leading to booing at any mention of the name “Zendejas.” Bonano tries not to think about the pressure of pleasing the Tucson faithful.

“As a kicker you can’t think about (the pressure), you just have to go out and make every kick,” Bonano said. “But yeah the fans will get on you if you miss one. You just have to keep your head down and kick it through the uprights.”

Rodriguez has stressed the importance of special teams in winning football games throughout fall camp.

“There’s no question for us right now, we’ve got to be able to make some plays in the special teams and be really solid there to have a chance,” Rodriguez said near the start of fall camp.

Having his presence during practice gives an added sense of urgency and pressure for the players, something an Arizona kicker has to get used to.

“[Rodriguez] is watching every kick I have, so it puts a little more pressure on me,” Bonano said. “And he’ll get on me when I miss one.”

Kickoff Changes Happening This Season

Even with the full-time role of place kicker securely locked up, Bonano will still handle his kickoff duties.

However, several rule changes have been made, in large part to keep the players safe.

The ball has been moved up from the 30-yard mark to now the 35-yard line, allowing for an increase in touchbacks and therefore a decrease in returns.

In an effort to sweeten the decision to take a touchback, teams will now start at the 25-yard line if they down the ball in the end zone on kickoffs, as opposed to the traditional 20-yard start.

Bonano said this has resulted in some discussions about purposely not kicking it deep enough for touchbacks so they could potentially take away some field position.

But sometimes safer is better, as Bonano said now he can consistently get touchbacks as long as there isn’t a strong wind in his face.

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