Arizona football kicker Tyler Loop has yet to miss, but is ready to

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Tyler Loop didn’t miss a kick last season. He went 12 for 12 on extra points and 12 for 12 on field goals.

Loop didn’t do all the kicks in spring training and he didn’t handle them well. Failure management therefore became a priority in the offseason for the third-year Arizona Wildcat.

“I was kind of in my head in the spring,” Loop said Thursday. “I missed a kick and stumbled a bit. It’s something he (special teams coach Jordan Paopao) kept saying to me, ‘Hey, we have to work on this. I know you haven’t missed any matches, but this is still an area you need to follow.

“So this summer, I spent a lot of time with our sports psychology team, working on objectively seeing a kick. Like, ‘Hey, I made it or I missed it, but I had a next kick. I have to go.’

“One thing we’re talking about a lot right now is, ‘Play the next piece.’ Keeping this in mind has really helped me.

Expectations are high for Loop as it enters its third season. The kicking job is all his after sharing it with Lucas Havrisik last year. Loop made the watch list for the Lou Groza Award, among other preseason accolades.

Loop knows he will miss a kick in a game at some point. How he approaches the next one will be the real test.

“I was always very emotionally invested, I played with a ton of passion growing up and I still do,” Loop said. “Now it’s about ‘How do you keep that passion going without letting it affect what’s next?’ So that’s where I had to improve a lot. We saw big improvements there.

Loop was not interested in playing soccer as a youngster, going so far as to say he “hated” the sport. But Loop comes from Lucas, Texas, about 35 miles northeast of Dallas. Football is a way of life there.

So when Loop was in seventh grade, his father, Steve, persuaded him to try kicking. Tyler had shown a strong foot in football.

“I didn’t like football,” Loop said. “I started kicking and fell in love with it.”

Loop came to Arizona in 2020 as one of the highest ranked kickers in the country. He has spent this season as the Wildcats’ main punter, averaging 43.0 yards per punt. Last year, he was Arizona’s short-range placekicker; his longest attempt came from 42 yards.

Loop has plenty of leg to make field goals beyond that distance; during practice on Thursday, he passed for a 41 yard and the ball landed on the roof of the Ginny L. Clements University Center beyond the north end zone. But Loop does not prioritize power. This approach aligns with the daily mantra of the entire Special Teams unit: “Quality over quantity”.

“The most important thing is high percentage field goals, 45 yards and more,” Loop said. “That’s what’s most important to the team. That’s what we practice the most.

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Ostendorp’s “next stop”

November 27, 2021;  Tempe, Arizona, USA;  Arizona Wildcats punter Kyle Ostendorp (19) against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the Territorial Cup at Sun Devil Stadium.

Two years ago, Loop was competing with Kyle Ostendorp for the punting job. Now they work side by side.

Ostendorp became Arizona’s punter last season, and he had a breakout campaign, setting a UA record for punt average (49.2 yards) and earning First-Team All-Pac recognition. 12. This year, Ostendorp is the holder of Loop.

“Since he’s been here,” said Ostendorp, a fourth-year junior, “we’ve always pushed each other and got better.”

Loop said he and Ostendorp had gone from competitors on the pitch to “brothers” off it. Loop has complete faith in its new incumbent, as well as longtime snapper Seth MacKellar.

The punting operation was not as smooth as last season. The Wildcats blocked four punts.

Paopao, in his first season as a full-time special teams coach, changed the protection scheme from a two-man wall to the more standard three-man version. He also pushed Ostendorp to improve his football IQ so that he is ready for any situation.

“He is very physically gifted,” Paopao said. “He does a great job getting the ball in the sweet spot and being able to carry the ball down the field. But really developing his knowledge of guards and when his operation needs to ramp up in terms of rushing looks and when he can hold it to help our gunners get down the field…that’s where you’re going to see the next step.

Ostendorp received multiple preseason accolades, from All-Pac-12 to All-American. He finds the attention flattering but ultimately inconsequential.

“It’s a testament to all the hard work I’ve done since I was little, but it’s pre-season,” Ostendorp said. “The awards really don’t mean anything.

“I try to attack every day with better concentration, better technique, better repetition. I don’t really care about pre-season (recognition). Like, that’s cool, don’t get me wrong. But I try to help my team – go out and win games.

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From Laura back, Cowing progresses

Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura performs a drill during practice Thursday.  De Laura returned after missing practice on Wednesday for unexplained reasons.

Starting quarterback Jayden de Laura returned to practice after an unexplained absence on Wednesday. De Laura took his usual share of reps with the first-team attack.

Receiver Jacob Cowing, out since Saturday, briefly appeared at Dick Tomey’s training grounds. He then spent time running along the sideline and talking to a coach.

Dorian Singer, who had a ton of targets while Cowing was out, capped the final period 11-for-11 with a 6-yard touchdown on an oblique pass from Laura fired between two defensemen.

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Bonus points

Freshman wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan had one of his best camp practices, mostly at the expense of fellow freshman Ephesians Prysock. At one-on-one, McMillan did a Randy Moss-type hold, reaching into Prysock’s back to grab the ball. At 11v11, McMillan grabbed the ball on a return route despite Prysock’s interference with him and his signaling.

In addition to being beaten on a sweet double move by Singer one-on-one, veteran cornerback Christian Roland-Wallace had another good day. Roland-Wallace forced a fumble during play at 11-on-11 and played a deep ball perfectly for Singer, forcing him to the sidelines and giving him no room to manoeuvre.

Defensive tackle Kyon Barrs, who scored throughout camp, participated in team periods. Rookie DT Jacob Kongaika did the same with a hand wrap he injured on Saturday.

Receiver AJ Jones and point carrier Jeremy Mercier practiced in non-contact red jerseys.

Players who did not participate included traffic jams Jalen John and DJ Williams; defensive tackles Tiaoalii Savea and Dion Wilson Jr.; and cornerbacks Treydan Stukes, Isaiah Rutherford and Isaiah Mays.

Three UA newcomers – McMillan, Savea and freshman goaltender Jonah Savaiinaea – made the initial watch list for the 2022 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year award. McMillan and Savaiinaea were also named in 247Sports’ preseason All-American True Freshman team.

Several players have stood out on special teams, Paopao said, including Nazar Bombata, DJ Warnell, Anthony Simpson, Dalton Johnson, Isaiah Taylor, Anthony Solomon and Ammon Allen. Warnell is in the running to succeed Stanley Berryhill III as Arizona’s No. 1 punter. “You can never replace a Stanley Berryhill,” Paopao said. “But a lot of guys have this tape and they see what it looks like.”

The Wildcats have one more practice Friday morning before a mock game Saturday night at Arizona Stadium. The mock game – scheduled to start at 6:30 a.m., weather permitting – is open to the public.

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