Physically, Jake Smith is closing in on 100 percent. Mentally, he still has some work to do.
That’s what being sidelined for six months will do to a kicker.
“He puts a lot of pressure on himself, which is good, but sometimes you have to be able to let that go and just be able to kick,” special teams coordinator Charlie Ragle said. “He’s working through it. For him, it’s just a matter of time.”
Smith, a Syracuse and Youngstown State transfer, competed with John Bonano in fall practice and shined. Bonano was suffering through a hamstring injury and Smith wasn’t missing.
But Smith then suffered a knee injury, and had to wait six weeks to have surgery because it was so swollen. He didn’t start kicking again until last month.
“It’s not that it still hurts,” Smith said, “it’s just not consistent enough yet.”
The good news for Smith and the Arizona Wildcats is that he still has nearly five months to find consistency and get back to last summer’s form.
Also helpful for the Wildcats is the fact that Smith doesn’t appear to be their only option. Walk-on Casey Skowron has caught the coaches eyes this spring; he was perfect on field goal attempts in last week’s scrimmage in Phoenix.
Colorado State transfer Alex Ragsdale is also on the roster and could be an option further down the road.
“It’s still early,” Ragle said. “We have focused a lot on individual technique so far and haven’t really gotten into the competition stage yet.
“I think when we get to fall, we’ll get things going a little more.”
Here’s a closer look at Smith and Skowron:
The details: 6-feet-2-inches, 200 pounds. From Philadelphia.
The lowdown: Smith joined the program as a walk-on prior to spring practice last year and impressed right away. The kicker spent the 2010 season with Syracuse before transferring to Youngstown State for the 2011 campaign. He has one season of eligibility left.
Know this: Smith’s father, Mitchell, also had a strong leg and played soccer at Stanford.
Quotable: “It shouldn’t matter if they restrict me distance wise. I try to kick the same whether it’s an extra point or a 55-yard field goal. I want to hit a pitching wedge every time, not a driver. I want to be smooth and consistent and that’s tough when you don’t know what’s going to happen with your leg.” - Smith
The details: 5-10, 155 pounds. From Phoenix.
The lowdown: Originally a soccer player, Skowron made the team following a walk-on tryout last August and served as Bonano’s backup for the 2012 season. He didn’t play football until his senior year of high school at Phoenix Brophy.
One fact to know: Before he joined the football team, Skowron served as a manager for the Wildcats’ soccer team.
Quotable: “I’ve been real impressed with Casey. He is really coming along. He’s a student walk-on and to see where he is at this point, I feel pretty good about it. To see all the work he’s put in has been great.” — Ragle
Contact reporter Daniel Berk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.