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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Pro/Con: Who should be Arizona’s placekicker?

Maybe you remember when the ASU football team stole the Duel in the Desert of 2010: The first of two missed extra points from Arizona kicker Alex Zendejas gave the Sun Devils life by way of overtime, and a second miss in the second overtime kept the Wildcats from tying ASU after scoring a touchdown, handing the Sun Devils the victory. Then again, it was Zendejas who kicked the game-winner against UA’s rival just a year prior. Looking at past history, would head coach Mike Stoops be wise to stay with Zendejas or has he blown his opportunity to make way for junior college transfer Jaime Salazar, the frontrunner for the placekicking duties?

PRO: Zendejas has demons to squash

People always look at the bad. OK, so Alex Zendejas had a nightmare of a game that so-happened to be against Arizona’s rival. And sure, he hasn’t been perfect in every other game of his two seasons as the Wildcat’s kicker, either.

Sometimes, however, knowing what you’ve got is relative. Zendejas’ hit on 73.7 percent (14-for-19) of his field goals in 2010, good enough for third in the Pacific 10 Conference. He went perfect in field goals from 1-to-29 yards, hit 2-for-5 from 30-to-39 yards and hit a pretty solid 7-for-9 from 40-49 yards.

He missed five extra points out of 46 tries, only the two against ASU mattered in the end.

Are those blasphemous numbers? Absolutely not.

Of course, the argument for Jaime Salazar to have his chance comes with the ASU game on fans’ minds. Why else would boos and jeers ring out at Saturday’s team scrimmage after Zendejas’ single miss when Salazar went the same 1-for-2 on the evening?

Don’t hang your anti-Alex hat on one poor game.

In the end, it’s Zendejas with the failures and experiences of Division I football that could make him the better option come game time. He’s heard the raucous rivalry-heated ASU crowd in his ear before he knocked in the game-winner in 2009. He’s played — and well at times — in front of rowdy crowds at Autzen Stadium and Husky Stadium before.

Maybe all the fan negativity will make Zendejas grow up. Perhaps the threat of Salazar taking his job was Stoops’ motivational tool, whether the threat to hand off his job to a newcomer be real or a ploy. It’s not likely Zendejas went home following that career low-point and decided he wouldn’t redeem himself in 2011.

The motivation to succeed is all there, and with his family name synonymous to the state’s football scene, don’t think the youngest Zendejas’ name won’t make some more, positive noise come this season.

_— Kevin Zimmerman is a journalism senior. He can be reached at
sports@wildcat.arizona.edu_

CON: It’s time for Salazar

The ship has sailed on Alex Zendejas’ time as Arizona’s placekicker, but it has nothing to do with his physical abilities.
If you look at Zendejas’ numbers, they aren’t bad. The senior connected on nearly 74 percent of his field goal attempts a year ago. That isn’t a great number, but it is still middle-of-the-pack in NCAA Division I, placing Zendejas ahead of notable names like UCLA’s Kai Forbath and ASU’s Thomas Weber.
Zendejas wasn’t done in by the number of field goals he missed, but rather by how he missed them. When he wasn’t concussing an offensive lineman with a line-drive into the back of his head or missing a field goal 20 yards to either side, he was missing extra points — some of which were game-deciding.
Sure, he had the game-winning kick at ASU in 2009, but a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.
That’s why it’s time for change at the placekicker position, if for no other reason than to shake things up.
Zendejas and junior college transfer Jaime Salazar were both equally unimpressive in Arizona’s preseason camp. Neither were consistent, and neither will be a top-of-the-line placekicker in college.
But Salazar offers something Arizona hasn’t had at the kicker position in three seasons — something new. And for a unit that was Arizona’s worst in 2010, that couldn’t come at a better time.
There’s no way Zendejas’ emotions don’t turn into scrambled eggs every time he steps onto a football field in front of fans. That’s not a knock on Zendejas — after what he’s been through, that would happen to most people.
But the rest of those people don’t play one of the most emotionally demanding positions on a team that’s responsible for millions of dollars of revenue a year.
Salazar is a fresh face, albeit an unproven one at this level. But he’s still confident and upbeat.
And let’s face it — Arizona’s kicking can’t get any worse than it was a year ago.

_— Alex Williams is a journalism junior. He can be reached at
sports@wildcat.arizona.edu._

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