FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Blake Mazza is coming to Arkansas ready to compete for whatever specialist job might be available. Right now, that appears to be all of them.
Mazza committed Tuesday morning to Arkansas as a preferred walk-on and will report to Fayetteville on July 3.
“I had a couple offers and opportunities from different schools, but I was just playing it out,” Mazza told SEC Country in a telephone interview.
Mazza said that over the last couple months, as various schools around the country began to survey their special teams situations, his contact increased with several coaches. Among those was Tanner Burns, who serves as the Arkansas special teams quality control coach.
The Plano (Texas) Senior High School product visited Arkansas the weekend of April 8 and watched the team’s first spring scrimmage.
“I saw the true need in the specialty jobs there,” Mazza said.
It is true that Arkansas has major needs in that department. Junior Cole Hedlund is currently the favorite to be the team’s placekicker, but he has been extremely inconsistent throughout his career. Hedlund was replaced in the middle of last season by senior Adam McFain.
Connor Limpert returns after kicking off 43 times for the Razorbacks in 2016, but only 9 of those kickoffs were touchbacks. As a team, Arkansas ranked dead last in the SEC, averaging just 60.35 yards on 72 kickoffs.
Then there’s the punting situation. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema sent sophomore Blake Johnson home to California in what Bielema described as “extreme timeout” for an off-field incident. The Razorbacks need to replace Toby Baker, who ranked 4th in the SEC in punting last season.
Johnson was a highly-touted punting prospect out of high school but in 3 years on campus, he’s known mostly for the “extreme timeout” and for falling behind quarterback Austin Allen on the punting depth chart last season.
“It’s kind of a situation where Coach Bielema is not sure which jobs are secured and stuff,” Mazza said.
According to Mazza, Bielema wants him to compete for all 3 positions.
Mazza also said that he’s been told that a scholarship next spring is possible, depending on how things go this fall.