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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


John Bonano may get his opportunity

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

At his weekly press conference on Monday, Arizona head coach Mike Stoops joked about hosting an open tryout to find a new starting kicker.

One day later, on the Pac-12 media teleconference, Stoops jokingly asked a reporter if he had any eligibility remaining.

But Arizona may have the solution to its notorious kicking woes already on the roster with kickoff specialist John Bonano.

“I went to him and said, ‘I want to let you compete,’” said special teams coach Jeff Hammerschmidt. “I felt like he deserved a chance to do it right now.”

Bonano, who leads the Pac-12 in touchbacks with 11, took live field goals for the first time at Tuesday’s practice and is officially listed as Alex Zendjas’ backup.

Should Zendejas falter yet again on Saturday versus Oregon State, Bonano will get his chance.

“Alex is our guy but if there is a situation where he has trouble with elevation then we have the answer in John,” Hammerschmidt said. “He’s looked good. It’s just a matter of him getting used to the timing and everything. His elevation looked great, his operation time is great.”

So why hasn’t Bonano gotten an opportunity by now? Bonano has Arizona ranked third in the Pac-12 in kickoff coverage so the coaching staff didn’t want to jeopardize his kickoff production in order to help the field goal kicking.

He started practicing field goals last season when the Wildcats were struggling but pulled his groin by overkicking and coaches feared a repeat of last season.

But now Arizona’s desperate. Plus, Bonano added 20 pounds of muscle to his lower body to boost his kickoff distance and give him the durability to do both field goals and kickoffs.

“I got a little more weight behind the ball and just worked on it hard,” Bonano said. “I definitely squatted a lot more than I used to. Focused a lot on legs. I’m maintaining it every day during the season as well. Every Sunday I hit legs hard. By the time the game comes I’m recovered.”

If his kickoffs are any indication, Bonano has the leg to help Arizona’s field goal game considerably. But Bonano, who didn’t kick field goals until his senior year of high school for Palma High School and was more serious about soccer than football, lacks the necessary reps and consistency.

“There’s inconsistency at times with Johnny,” Hammerschmidt said. “He’s got to get used to using a holder.”

But the Wildcats have been painfully inconsistent with Zendejas, who owns 11 career missed extra points, as the starter. Bonano could give Arizona a change it desperately needs.

“We just need guys to step up and make the normal kicks for us,” Stoops said. “Not do anything out of the ordinary, just be good and make the ones we’re capable of making.”

After coming to Arizona strictly for school, the 2010 Pacific 10 Conference first-team All-Academic member is working toward giving the Wildcats the stability in the kicking game they’ve been missing for over two years.

“I’m ready if they call on me,” Bonano said. “All my friends are hoping I get in there on field goals but I’m just trying to keep doing my job as kickoffs and if they call my name I’m ready.”

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