By Craig Sanders
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The monsoon winds only slightly stirred Arizona Stadium on Monday night during Arizona's annual intrasquad scrimmage, but there were larger winds working through the minds of the players, coaches and spectators who watched a new group of Wildcats knock helmets in one of their final scrimmages before the season begins Sept. 2 against Pacific.
It's a year in which the spotlight as Sports Illustrated's No. 1 pick in 1994 is finally off the Wildcats' minds and the expectations have slipped from national championship contention to competing in the middle of the Pacific 10 Conference. The offense is being almost totally revamped with intense challenges among newcomers at the running back, the offensive line and the receiver positions.
With only two starters returning on offense, coach Dick Tomey has huge holes to fill in almost every offensive position, but when spring ball began one of the biggest holes was that of departed All-American placekicker Steve McLaughlin.
Into the fray were thrown returning senior Jon Prasuhn, whose previous experience included kickoff and backup placekicker duties, and highly touted freshman Mark McDonald, who was a Blue Chip All-American.
Prasuhn came out of spring ball with glowing reviews from coach Dick Tomey, who said that percentage-wise, Prasuhn was kicking better than McLaughlin. His Camp Cochise performance solidified that feeling among the coaching staff, and when the senior stepped onto the field on Monday night he had truly inherited the job of McLaughlin, the 1994 Lou Groza Award winner for best collegiate placekicker.
Prasuhn made four of six field-goal attempts against real game pressure. He boomed a 52-yarder early in the scrimmage that easily cleared the goal post. His other long kick of 44 yards would have been good from beyond 50. A 22-yard attempt was blocked by Kelly Malveaux and he sent a 34-yard kick wide.
"I visualize a crowd out there," Prasuhn said. "Visualization puts you in situations, and your mental focus blocks everything out."
That visualization may some day become reality for this kicker from Tucson's Salpointe High School. If his career is anything like his predecessors, he will have plenty of attempts, and plenty of big attempts, too. But Tomey is hoping that this year's squad will get considerably fewer of those big-time attempts if the Wildcats' evolving offense is able to convert more goal-line situations into touchdowns. Arizona resorted to successful field goals 11 times on 38 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line last season.
But Prasuhn, who worked out with McLaughlin and NFL kickers Fuad Reviez and Greg Davis over the summer, is set to take over the duties.
"Personally I feel really well," Prasuhn said. "I'm physically ready and mentally prepared."
With a recent rash of injuries and continued uncertainties along the offensive line, that may be the best news Tomey has heard this preseason.
Read Next Article