PAYSON — Arizona State freshman kicker Brandon Ruiz ate dinner at head coach Todd Graham’s house, and they talked about something Ruiz — the once Alabama commit and USA Today high school All-American — could likely do with his eyes shut: Warm ups.
The two were joined by offensive coordinator Billy Napier and spoke the Saturday before heading to Camp Tontozona. Ruiz said Napier told him to start warming up at 35 yards, then slowly increase from there. Ruiz wasn’t opposed to the idea, but brought some extra sauce to the table.
“I told him (Napier) you know like a 55-yard field goal — that’s like the average,” said Ruiz, the Gilbert, Arizona native. “He (Napier) said, ‘If it needs to go above, we can do that, but if it’s a bad day, we might move it up a little bit.’”
He then added, “I can go 60 too though.”
Just watch him in warm ups. He’s a spectacle.
Below the trees and deep into the Tonto National Forest was Ruiz. Croutched down, signing autographs and taking pictures, he was next to a parade of children itching for his signature after Saturday’s Camp Tontozona scrimmage game.
He hasn’t played a game, and yet, he’s already a superstar.
“Just filling in for Zane (Gonzalez), you know,” Ruiz said.
Gonzalez, the 2016 Lou Groza Award-winning kicker, may not be in the ASU record books for long.
“When I was getting recruited, everything they said was ‘you are going to break Zane’s record. You’re going to do all this stuff.’ And I can already see myself doing it,” Ruiz said. “I could hit a 59-yard field goal to break his (record) this freshman year. I’m just hoping to score points and help us win games.”
Scoring points is what Ruiz did best in Saturday’s scrimmage. He punched through all three field goals he kicked from 22, 44, and 29 yards out.
Quarterbacks Manny Wilkins and Blake Barnett threw one touchdown each, scoring six points a piece. Running backs Trelon Smith, Eno Benjamin and Demario Richard each split rushing touchdowns.
But on Ruiz’s three kicks, he had scored more points than anyone with nine. Also, the Sun Devils didn’t even kick extra points. With a couple of automatics chips, Ruiz would have given ASU a helping of double digit points.
Ruiz set some lofty goals going into his freshman season. Following his first ever Sun Devil scrimmage, he told reporters he wants to be an All-American, earn first-team all Pac-12 honors and win the Lou Groza Award — the same award now-Browns kicker Gonzalez took home last season. Former ASU kicker Thomas Webber won it in 2007.
If Ruiz yearns to be better, or even close to as good as Gonzalez, he’s already pretty close.
At Williams Field High School (Gilbert), he launched a 58-yard field goal through the uprights. Gonzalez’s record-high is a a 59-yard kick that he made last season against Colorado.
College Football’s longest ever field goal came in 1976 when Ove Johansson, a Swedish kicker from Abilene Christian, made a 69-yard field goal against East Texas.