Arizona football: Smith finds his home

Two-time transfer is bidding to be team's placekicker and punter
2013-08-10T00:00:00Z Arizona football: Smith finds his homeDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 10, 2013 12:00 am  • 

FORT HUACHUCA - Jake Smith came to fall camp with a job to win.

It turns out, if he's good enough, he could win two.

The fifth-year senior walk-on will battle with Casey Skowron for the starting kicking job. That one he knew about.

The Syracuse and Youngstown State transfer will also compete with former Sahuaro High School product Drew Riggleman for the punting duties.

That one is a bit of a surprise.

But with Riggleman, also a walk-on, the only true punter on the Arizona roster, coach Rich Rodriguez has decided to throw Smith into the mix.

"Drew has done a real nice job early on here and I've been impressed so far," said special teams coach Charlie Ragle after Friday's practice at Fort Huachuca. "But, just like any position, having depth is key and having competition is the same. I think with Jake there pushing Drew a little bit, it has certainly challenged him to raise his game as well.

"Jake has the ability to do some good things and he's done a good job thus far."

Smith, who missed last year with a torn ACL, hasn't punted since high school, but is into the idea of giving it a shot.

"It's something I've always kept messing around with, but never super seriously," Smith said of punting.

Smith hasn't played in a college game since 2010 when he handled kickoffs for Youngstown State. He transferred to Arizona after that season, but had to sit out 2011 per NCAA rules. He then missed last year with his knee injury.

So, the more playing time he can get in his final season of eligibility, the better.

The Star recently chatted with Smith about punting, returning from injury, transferring twice, meeting NFL kickers through social media and other topics:

On potentially punting and kicking coming off ACL surgery: "It would be interesting. I'd have to limit the volume on both; that'd be a concern. I definitely think it's doable. I don't think it's something I couldn't handle. I trust myself to do it. I have to make sure the coaches trust me enough to do it. We'll see what the coaches decide. I'm happy with either. Would it be cool to do everything? Yeah."

On the health of his knee: "I'm getting there. It's something I really don't think about anymore. I think the major thing the training staff has to watch is my volume. They're reining me in a little bit when I need to be. I have that range, that pop that I used to have. To be 10 months out from surgery, I think I'm in good shape. I'm going to continue to improve the next month and then into the season."

On transferring from Syracuse and then Youngstown State: "With Youngstown, football was great, I loved my coaches, I loved my teammates, it just wasn't the right fit for me academically. I didn't love it there. Syracuse as a school, I loved it. Football wasn't right for me there. People look at me and say 'oh, you transferred twice, what's wrong with you?' I just wanted to find the right fit. Everyone wants to find where they're going to be happy. This is supposed to be the best time of your life. I found that here. I found the right school. I found the right coaching staff."

On his punting experience: "I punted in high school. With my frame, I'm looked at more as a punter than a kicker just naturally. I'm more of a kicker than a punter, but if you just looked at me, you'd think I was a punter. I was a combo guy coming out of high school. It helped me get recruited. There was a chance I would have been the starting punter at Syracuse if I would have stayed there. I love kicking. Not that I don't like punting, kicking is definitely what I like to do a little more. "

On working out recently with NFL kicker Billy Cundiff: "We actually met through social media, I think it was LinkedIn. He was working out in Scottsdale with some NFL snappers and invited me up for a workout. You walk out there at first and you see these guys who are getting paid do their thing. I was a little nervous at first, but after watching them for a little bit, I realized it's the exact same thing I do. It was a good experience for me."

Extra points

• Rodriguez said Friday's practice at the Army installation wasn't a good one. The result was some extra running after practice.

"I thought it was a sloppy practice," he said. "It was not up to our standards and what we expect. So I tell them they either pay me now during practice or pay me later, so after practice, we ran them a little more.

"We're gonna get it out of them one way or another. They'd much rather get it done during practice, but if not, we'll get it done after practice."

The team will have a short practice at 8:30 this morning and will hold a light scrimmage at 5:30 p.m.

• Freshman Gerhard De Beer, a native of Pretoria, South Africa, has moved from defensive end to tight end. De Beer is at the UA on a track scholarship. He throws the discus and shot put.

• Freshman walk-on safety Clint Cochrane quit the team this week. Cochrane played at Canyon del Oro High School and redshirted last season.

On StarNet: Keep up with the Cats through training camp on Arizona Daily Star reporter Daniel Berk's blog at azstarnet.com/berk

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Pac-12 South football standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Arizona 7 2 0 0.778 10 3 0 0.769
USC 6 3 0 0.667 9 4 0 0.692
UCLA 6 3 0 0.667 9 3 0 0.750
Arizona State 6 3 0 0.667 10 3 0 0.769
Utah 5 4 0 0.556 9 4 0 0.692
Colorado 0 9 0 0.000 2 10 0 0.167

Pac-12 North football standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Oregon 8 1 0 0.889 12 1 0 0.923
Stanford 5 4 0 0.556 7 5 0 0.583
Washington 4 5 0 0.444 8 5 0 0.615
Cal 3 6 0 0.333 5 7 0 0.417
Washington State 2 7 0 0.222 3 9 0 0.250
Oregon State 2 7 0 0.222 5 7 0 0.417
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