We caught up recently with Arizona Wildcats defensive ends/special teams coach Jeff Hammeschmidt after a recent practice to see how spring practice is going from his perspective.
Some of the good news is that Hammerschmidt has an emerging senior end in C.J. Parish to help replace Brooks Reed, Ricky Elmore and D’Aundre Reed.
But defensive end is one of the least experienced positions on the team, and Hammer is also trying to improve the kicking game. (We’re hoping to have an update on kicker Alex Zendejas later in the week.)
Until then, here are five questions for Hammer from me and Brad Allis of WildcatSportsReport.com — and one of the bloggers with the TucsonCitizen.com Sports Network:
Q: How’s your new punter, junior college transfer Kyle Dugandzic?
HAMMER: “He’s doing OK. There were times when I lost a little bit of sleep, but he’s going to be fine. He’s a very polished directional guy. He’s not Keenyn Crier. He’s not going to amaze you when you go out and watch him kick. But he’s a direction guy; I think he’ll be fine. …
He is just getting used to his long-snapper. That’s a little adjustment. But then we start talking about our operation time. For what we do, we don’t like to kick it in 2.5, 2.4 (seconds). We’re more of 2.1. I think he was trying to hurry himself at times too much. Now, he’s just getting back into his rhythm. There’s a happy medium where he has to get comfortable. And he’s such a hard-working guy. We’re videoing him, and he goes in and watches it every day. He’s getting back to his normal self, the stuff that we saw before. And he’s athletic. He’s an old receiver, so it gives you a guy who do some things. He can throw and he can run, so that’s good.”
Q: Redshirt freshman end Dan Pettinato passes the eye test; how has he been?
“He’s coming along. I think his senior year of high school he was 6-4, 215, and the next year he was 6-4, 260. He’s gained some weight early, and he’s just getting used to it. I think the adjustment for him is just getting his foot speed quicker. But he’s going to be a good player because he works so hard. He could be one of the better guys for us. This year, we’re hoping he can get 10, 15 snaps per game or so — and play a bunch of special teams — and then next yeat hopefully he has a chance to be a three-year player for us.”
Q: Defensive tackle Dominique Austin has been practicing at end; how do you use a 290-pound guy at end?
HAMMER: “It’s just about finding a place to give him some reps. Dominique does a good job. At times, you would like more fast-twitch because you’re outside, but he’s a big, strong guy with long arms. Sometimes you get into a position where you’re playing the Stanfords and some of those teams that just power the ball, and I think you can use a bigger d-end. He has a chance to do that for us.”
Q: Does he have to transform his body a little bit, does he have to drop down some weight?
HAMMER: “No. I think we’re just going to let him be a guy who can do both. Donald Horton did it a couple of years ago and he was 280 pounds. He wasn’t ideal for pass-rush stuff, but when we’re playing teams with tight ends and fullbacks and all that stuff, then we brought him in. That will be (Austin’s) role.”
Q: What’s it like coaching the line with new defensive tackles coach and former Wildcat Joe Salave’a?
HAMMER: “Oh, it’s awesome. Joe is great. I really loved (former defensive tackles Mike Tuiasosopo), but Joe is so fun because of his energy. He is just going. He’s great for the guys. The guys really respect him and he knows exactly what he’s talking about. And he’s gotten much wiser over his days. He used to just grunt when he played. Now, he makes sense. He gives a lot of the motivation stuff — just about effort and playing hard. It’s been phenomenal. Then he comes to me, and asks, ‘You have anything to say?’ I say, ‘No, I would have said just what you said if I had the ability.’”