Sanchez, Andrews seek playing time for Wolf Pack
RENO – Carson High graduate Ray Sanchez finds himself in the situation he’s seemingly always been in during his time with the University of Nevada football team: He’s still trying to win the starting placekicker’s job with the Wolf Pack.
Meanwhile, Douglas High graduate Joe Andrews will head on the same path as Sanchez: He will also try to eventually win a job as a starting offensive lineman for the Wolf Pack.
The difference between the two, though, is that time is running out for Sanchez, who is a senior. Andrews is a redshirt freshman and has a long road to travel before competing for a starting job.
Sanchez is in a battle with redshirt freshman Damon Fine for the starting placekicking job.
“I’ve talked to the coaches about it,” Sanchez said on Sunday at the Wolf Pack’s media day at Mackay Stadium. “They said nobody has the starter’s position. There was no clear-cut starter coming out of spring. “It’s up for grabs, whoever wants it the most. It just depends whoever’s doing the best at the time, they’re (the coaches ) going to play them.”
While giving the slight edge to Fine, Nevada coach Chris Tormey confirmed that the competition for the starting job will last until the week before the season opener on Sept. 1 at BYU.
“Ray Sanchez is doing very well,” Tormey said. “He’s reliable. I think he had a good spring. He’s an outstanding person. He’s going to contribute to this year.”
Tormey said it’s possible that the kicking duties could be split between the two, with one handling short field goals and the other handling longer tries.
Even though he’s still involved in a competition for the starting job, Sanchez has no bitter feelings.
“I don’t get all caught up in the competition,” he said. “If I’m not having fun, it’s not worth it to be out here. It’s always been a battle with somebody.
“It’s no big deal, I’m used to the competition. I don’t have any grudges against anybody, no matter what.”
Sanchez said he and Fine are friends. “You have to be,” Sanchez said. “You can’t have any enemies out here.”
The kicking game should be a strength for the team, Sanchez said. “We’re pretty loaded at the kicking positions,” he said.
Kickers are also expected to hit the weight room in the Nevada program, Sanchez said.
“They seem to believe that at this school,” said Sanchez about kickers being physically strong.
Sanchez holds the school record for kickers in squats at 436 pounds and said the kickers hold their own with the receivers and defensive backs in the weight room.
As far as his kicking game, Sanchez said, “I’m just working more on accuracy than anything. Distance will also come.”
Tormey said he’s also high on the 6-5, 260-pound Andrews, who’s working at offensive tackle and center. Tormey said Andrews could work his way into the two-deep by next season.
“Joe’s a very good athlete,” Tormey said. “He’s got a great frame. He had a good summer. He’s got potential.”
Andrews said he hopes to earn playing time on special teams and make the traveling squad this year. He knows he has to become bigger.
“I still want to gain about 20 to 30 pounds,” he said. “I’ve still got a little ways to go.”
Andrews said his goal is to start by next season. “Some of the guys that are in front of me are seniors and juniors,” he said.
After missing virtually the entire season last year due to shoulder surgery, Andrews is healthy.
“It’s really weird to be able to hit somebody and not feel your shoulder pop out because I’ve been living with that for a couple of years,” he said.
Another one of Andrews’ responsibilities this year will be working on the scout teams. “You’ve got to give it 100 percent,” he said.
Andrews and Sanchez said they’re fortunate to be playing close to home. “I get to play in front of my family and friends,” Sanchez said.
“Not too many people get that chance. I’ll always take those memories with me. It’s been a good situation here.”
NEVADA RECEIVES LITTLE RESPECT
Nevada is ranked 108th out of 117 Division I-A teams by Sports Illustrated, but Tormey said he understands the rating. He said the ratings are mostly based on what was done last year and since Nevada was 2-10 last season, the ranking is no surprise.
“That’s probably where we should be ranked right now,” Tormey said. “It doesn’t have any bearing on what kind of team we have.”
Sanchez said this year’s team could potentially finish .500 or better and even went as far to say, “We can win it all,” referring to the Western Athletic Conference title. “We could surprise some people.”
“I really don’t think that’s a true reflection of our team,” said Sanchez about the Sports Illustrated ranking. “Everybody’s a lot bigger from the summer. You can just tell the difference between this team and last year’s team.”
Andrews agreed with Sanchez. “There’s no place to go but up,” Andrews said. “Nobody expects anything from us.”
Andrews and Sanchez said the WAC opener against TCU last year was an eye opener.
“Just watching the speed of the other team, you realize it’s a step up,” Andrews said.
Wolf Pack notes: A couple of players, including Nevada’s most prominent transfer, former Oregon running back Herman Ho-Ching, have yet to report for fall camp. “The jury’s still obviously out on them,” Tormey said.