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Bonano on the mend in battle for kicking job

Bonano healing from hamstring injury, getting pushed by Smith in competition for kicking job.

TUCSON – John Bonano is back where he’s most comfortable – kicking field goals.


That hadn’t been the case the first few days of fall practice, as he was nursing a slightly injured right hamstring.


“I was a little worried that I’d be a little rusty coming back, but I kept working everyday and rehabbing it,’’ said Bonano, UA’s senior kicker.  


The important thing is he wasn’t far away from his usual routine. While not able to go all out, he was able to take half-steps and follow through with making-contact kicks to stay in rhythm.


“He’s kicked it pretty well the last couple of days,’’ said Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez.


Last year, Bonano came on the scene late to replace Alex Zendejas and did an admirable job, hitting eight of 12 field goals, including 3 of 4 between 40-49 yards.


“You’re always going to miss a few kicks, but you have got to make most of (the ones) you’re supposed to make,’’ Rodriguez said.


In a word, consistency is what Rodriguez is looking in a kicker.


“You look for a guy who can put it through the goal post,’’ he said. “Most of guys like that are ones where the pressure doesn’t bother them. (Pressure) situations don’t bother them. They kick the same way every day, whether it’s a practice or a game.’’


It also helps when you have competition. When Bonano sat out the early practices, junior Jake Smith handled the place-kicking duties. But now Smith has missed a couple of days with a minor injury, Rodriguez said.


“That will be ongoing,’’ Rodriguez said of the competition. “John may (have) been a little ahead at the end of spring. But we have a couple more weeks before game time.’’


Rodriguez likes the competition.


“I wish I had it at every position,’’ he said.


Bonano said Smith “is doing a great job. It pushes me to go harder.’’


But not hard enough to work on kickoffs. With the injury to the hamstring still limiting him, Bonano has not started to do that yet.


MEET THE TEAM


Arizona will have a closed scrimmage on Saturday and a Meet the Team function on Sunday. On Thursday, the Wildcats were back on the field for their final two-a-day practices.


“I think there are hundreds of football teams across the country that are tired of practicing against themselves,” Rodriguez said. “We have so much work to do and so many guys that are going to be playing for the first time that they need to have a sense of urgency every day and every practice. That’s probably been the biggest thing I’ve been preaching every day is to have that sense of urgency, because our seniors certainly have since it’s their last go around.”


FAMILIARIZATION PERIOD


The Wildcats are about halfway through preseason workouts -- two weeks down and a little more than two weeks left before the season opener against Toledo.


“I think they’ve been pretty coachable," Rodriguez said. “I think that when you are in your first year ... every time the coach says something, they think it’s a suggestion … but no, we’re kind of telling you. But after they get to know us, they know the difference between a suggestion and a demand.’’


He did, however, say that his team has been “receptive from the start" to his coaching.


“I think we’ve made some pretty good progress,’’ he said. “This team has been a lot of fun to coach because they are hungry.


“They want to get better. I think our staff has done a good job of reaching out to them. The longer we are around them the more they will understand that all we truly want is the best for them. They just don’t know us. But once they get to know us, sure we want to win games, but all we want is for our kids to get the best out of their ability.


“Our goal is to work them as hard as they’ve ever been worked but treat them as well as they’ve ever been treated. You’ve got to do both. You can’t do one or the other.’’