April 13, 2006
Tucson, AZ (CSTV U-WIRE) -- At face value, Brad Wood's ongoing recovery from a knee injury should most affect the Arizona football team's passing game, as the junior tight end finished with more receiving touchdowns - six - than any other returning player.
Yet Wood's absence this spring is also taking its toll on other means of scoring for the Wildcats.
After former punter Danny Baugher went down with a season-ending knee injury against Oregon in Arizona's seventh game last season, Wood assumed holding duties on kicks by junior Nick Folk.
Wood hurt his knee in the season finale against ASU - giving way for the rest of that game to since-departed wide receiver Ryan Eidson - and his special-teams responsibilities have since fallen on a pair of unknowns: redshirt sophomore punter Kyle McQuown and sophomore wideout Jason Argos, a former scout-team quarterback.
"It's going pretty well right now," said McQuown, who transferred from Idaho State in the offseason. "We're just getting some work in, trying to get it down."
Getting the ball down correctly has been especially important, McQuown said, particularly in light of two point-after attempts in Arizona's 29-27 win at Oregon State the week after Baugher's injury.
After a charging Beaver defender blocked Folk's first kick, his first miss in 48 career attempts, Wood mistimed the second hold, and the ball careened left of the uprights.
"After that week, we got out (on the field) extra and did more (repetitions)," Folk said. "A lot of my balls during that week and during the game were floating to the left, and he was just a little bit ahead on the spot. We changed it, and he did well the rest of the year, until he got hurt."
Arizona special teams coordinator Joe Robinson acknowledged that the most common drop off with a new holder is timing, and McQuown said he and Folk have focused on establishing a good post-snap rapport.
Folk said the most important factor in him making a clean kick is not the position of the laces - which, like many kickers, he prefers facing outward - but where the ball is placed on the field.
As evidenced in the Oregon State blunder, even a couple inches off his ideal spot can make all the difference.
"I had to change my stance a little bit, just with the lean of the ball (Folk likes) and everything," McQuown said.
Robinson added other attributes a good holder should exhibit, including having the ball pointing in the kicker's preferred direction, which varies very slightly by player.
Also important, he said, is the ability to catch the ball and use it quickly, an advantage for a punter like McQuown.
"You've got to have good, quick hands, which not everybody has," Robinson said. "But then on top of that, you've got to know exactly how to put that ball before the kicker."
McQuown's relationship with Folk should gain an extra wrinkle in the fall, as Robinson said he expects both players to share punting duties.
While Folk is a formidable incumbent at the position, averaging 44.7 yards on 22 kicks after Baugher got hurt, McQuown said he's just happy to help out for the time being.
"He's a great kicker, and I don't want to mess anything up for him," McQuown said.
(C) 2006 Arizona Daily Wildcat via CSTV U-WIRE