You won’t hear Dylan Klumph complain about the heat in Tucson.
“Punting weather,” the new Wildcats punter proclaimed when asked Saturday why he transferred to Arizona.
If you execute properly, Tucson should be a punter’s paradise. The city’s elevation is about 2,390 feet. Once monsoon season ends, the air is dry.
Contrast that with Klumph’s former digs: Berkeley, California. Berkeley is basically at sea level (171 feet). The air is often moist and heavy.
Still, Klumph averaged 43.92 yards per punt for Cal, just a fraction less than the school record of 43.96. He is expected to be an upgrade at the position for the Wildcats, no matter where they play.
“He’s a veteran,” special-teams coordinator Jeremy Springer said. “He’s played in the Pac-12 before. He’s kicked in tough games, tough-weather games. He brings that different dynamic that maybe some other guys don’t have.”
Springer and Klumph spoke to reporters about 45 minutes after the team’s Saturday scrimmage. The punters and snappers spent about a half-hour working on their craft after practice.
Klumph hasn’t definitively won the job yet. He’s still competing with Jake Glatting and Matt Aragon. After arriving a week late to camp while waiting for summer grades to be posted, Klumph said he isn’t quite “game ready.”
But he was brought here as a graduate transfer to be the No. 1 punter, and it seems like only a matter of time before that becomes official. Klumph expects to be a key contributor.
“Punting can make or break a team,” the fifth-year senior said. “Hopefully I can set up the defense the best I can and give them the most room to play with.
“Flipping the field is a huge thing. It’s a momentum changer too, as everyone knows. It’s hard to march 95 yards.”
The Wildcats and their fans know. Arizona finished last in the Pac-12 in gross and net punting average last season. The entire operation was troublesome at times. Long snapper Nick Reinhardt missed the season because of a knee injury. On multiple occasions, UA punters had trouble handling snaps.
Springer was determined to raise the competition level at the position. He knew about Klumph through connections in the small world of kicking and punting.
Klumph was on track to graduate in May. He also was looking for a change of scenery. After initially blocking him from transferring within the Pac-12, Cal gave Klumph his full release in January. On Feb. 9, he announced he was coming to Arizona.
“I’m glad I came here,” Klumph said. “This place right now is probably the best school in the country to set me up punting-wise.”
Klumph has NFL aspirations. He’s a pro-style punter with a powerful leg.
“He does have NFL potential,” said Mike McCabe, the founder of One On One Kicking, where Klumph and numerous college and pro kickers and punters train in the offseason. “He’s very good at directional punts.”
Distance isn’t everything. Klumph said it feels as if the conditions in Tucson add 10-plus yards to his punts, but punting is a situational discipline. As McCabe said, regarding Tucson’s elevation: “It may give you a little hang time, but it’s not going to matter. It’s where you place the ball on the field.”
Klumph had net averages of 37.6 and 38.4 yards the past two seasons — significantly higher than Arizona’s mark of 29.4 last year. His goal is to consistently boot the ball 45 yards with 4.5 seconds of hang time. Every scenario is different, however.
“You need to be a student of the game,” said Klumph, a pre-law major at Cal who’s pursuing a master’s degree in education leadership at the UA. “Who’s the returner? Where’s he going to go? Where are you at on the field? What does the team need? Do they need a 60-yard ball? Or do they just need to get the hand in the air (for a fair catch)?
“You’ve really got to know exactly what you’re doing.”
Klumph began his prep career as a middle linebacker at Crespi High School in Encino, California. But a foot injury prompted a position change.
Klumph had played soccer since he was a youth, and no one kicked the ball farther at Crespi’s kicker tryout. The more he did it, the more he enjoyed it.
Klumph made his UA practice debut two Fridays ago. He punted on his own while waiting to be cleared — “It’s a little boring,” he said, “but you gotta do what you gotta do” — and unleashed a bomb at the start of Arizona’s scrimmage the next day. Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin remarked that “it just sounds different” when Klumph catches one cleanly.
“When you hit a sweet spot with a golf ball, you know that ball’s absolutely crushed. There’s a smile on your face,” Klumph said. “The same with punting. When you hit that ball in a perfect spot, you know it’s going to go.”
- Springer said the placekicking job remains open between senior Josh Pollack and sophomore Lucas Havrisik, who will handle kickoffs regardless. Springer praised Pollack’s professionalism. “He’s a leader,” Springer said. “He’s going to go to class. He’s going to get an A. He’s an example for the younger guys.”
- Springer said he hasn’t settled on a No. 1 kickoff returner yet. He primarily is looking at defensive backs and running backs for that role. J.J. Taylor returned a kickoff in a video of the scrimmage released by the school.
- Taylor was among the veterans Springer cited as tone-setters on special teams. The others were seniors Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Shun Brown and sophomore Tony Fields II.
- Walk-on receiver Stanley Berryhill III was awarded a scholarship.
- Another new look for the offensive line: Michael Eletise at left tackle and Tshiyombu Lukusa at left guard. Redshirt freshman Edgar Burrola also got some time at left tackle.
- Sophomore Troy Young has been getting looks at cornerback. Young came to Arizona as a safety and was moved to “Will” linebacker in the spring.
- Players who did not participate in the scrimmage included cornerbacks Jace Whittaker and Lorenzo Burns, defensive end JB Brown, defensive tackle PJ Johnson, linebacker Jacob Colacion and offensive tackle Donovan Laie.
- The Wildcats are scheduled to have the day off Sunday before resuming practice Monday, which is also the first day of class for the fall semester.