Josh Elias wasn’t with the Arizona Wildcats when they opened camp earlier this month.
Now, he’s the starting long-snapper for punts.
Arizona looked around after last season’s starting snapper, scholarship sophomore Chase Gorham, left the team for personal reasons at the start of camp (although he has a redshirt season available and could return at some point).
The Wildcats were prepared to plug in junior offensive lineman Brian Chacon for the “short” snaps — field goals and extra points — but wanted to create competition for punt snaps.
The coaches heard about Elias, from Valley Christian High in San Jose, Calif., and made their pitch for him to walk-on. Elias, who had been preparing to walk-on at Washington State, liked the opportunity in Tucson better, joined the team and started classes Monday.
Coaches — just like they charted the kicking competition between Jaime Salazar and Alex Zendejas — kept track of every practice snap from Elias and junior David Highberger. Armed with that data on accuracy and speed, they gave the job to Elias, special teams coach Jeff Hammerschmidt said after Wednesday’s practice.
And, so, a 17-year-old who has been on the job just a couple of weeks will be tasked with not messing up the snaps for junior college transfer punter Kyle Dugandzic. Elias won’t turn 18 until Oct. 9, halfway through the season.
Elias’ high school coach, Mike Machado, was quoted last year on Elias’ long snapping, saying: “Josh has worked hard and is very good at it, up to college speed already. Some college that has a need could give him a scholarship for those skills alone.”
In a sign of the times, Elias had his own recruiting website, with plenty of pictures and videos. Check it out at http://www.longsnapper.info/