A television commentator who was doing the color during the first UW/Nebraska game casually remarked that we were witnessing the worst overall special teams play he had ever seen at this level.
Washington's coverage and return units were a a complete nightmare during the early parts of last season. The situation did not start improving until the coaching staff started inserting starters such as Mason Foster into the lineup to help boost performance down the stretch. The team finished strong in this area in 2010 and they hope to build on that success in 2011.
Special teams performance is always a good indicator of the type of experience and depth you have on the squad. This year the Huskies are deeper and they have more overall talent and experience for the coaches to work with. Team speed which is another key ingredient to special teams success is also on the rise.
The addition of players like Josh Shirley, Andrew Hudson, James Sample, Antavius Sims, Marcus Peters, Cory Waller, Jamal Kearse, Diandre Campbell, and Marvin Hall are going to give these units a big shot in the arm.
Place Kicker - Erik Folk was 13 of 20 in field goal attempts and hit all 33 of his PAT attempts last season. Erik is 68-for-68 on PATs for his career, the second-best record in Husky history (Mike Lansford was 73-for-73). Folk is accurate but doesn't have a real strong leg. He has proven to be a clutch performer when the game is on the line.
Key Insight - He isn't the type of guy that can kick it out of the end zone so that has been a problem for the coverage units.
Punter - Kiel Rasp took over as the punter after starter Will Mahan suffered a season-ending injury after the first game. He set a school record for punt average with 43.76 yards per punt. In 12 games he never averaged less than 39.8 yards per punt for a game and tied the school record with an 82-yard punt at California. Both Mahan and Rasp are back for one more season.
Key Insight - No worries here. The Huskies have two punters who could start for most of the teams in the conference.
Kickoff Returners - Jessie Callier and Kevin Smith handled most of the kick return duties last season. Expect kids like Bishop Sankey and Marvin Hall to get long looks here this fall.
Key Insight - We would have loved to see what Deontae Cooper could have done here.
Punt Returners - Cody Bruns and Devin Aguilar were the main returners last season and their job was to simply catch the ball and not fumble it. Fair catching and falling forward for a yard or two after the catch was the status quo for this group.
Key Insight - Washington needs someone to emerge this fall as a credible return threat. Marvin Hall could be that guy but the coaches need to trust his hands before they are going to put him back there. Somebody needs to become the guy that other teams fear will take it to the house.