Idaho State Position Previews — Special Teams

Idaho State's athletic kick returners could give UW some heartache on Saturday if they're not careful. - Eric Francis

Each week, we take a look at the various fronts of Washington's upcoming opponent. Today, we examine the special teams of the Idaho State Bengals.

Players to watch
K Brendon Garcia, P C.J. Reyes, PR Luke Austin, KR Aaron Prier

Notable injuries/absences
None

Analysis
Fifth-year senior Brendon Garcia handles the kickoff and place kicking duties for the Bengals, as he has each year that he's played at Idaho State. Last year, he made just six of 12 field goal attempts but has a career long kick of 50 yards; in other words, he's talented but inconsistent. This year, he has made all seven of his field goal attempts, though that raises the question of why Idaho State's offense has been forced to kick field goals seven times against lower-division opponents. ISU has allowed just short of 20 yards per kickoff return against two Division II opponents this year, and last year they surrendered 23.4 yards per return, a number that would have ranked 89th in the FBS. This is as good of a chance as UW will see for some time to finally break that long "kickoff return for a touchdown" drought.

The same could be said for UW's punt return drought: last year, opponents gained a mind-boggling average of 18.2 yards per return, including two scores. (I'd be surprised if Washington doesn't score this week on a punt return, honestly.) Punter C.J. Reyeswho is also the team's punt returner and backup quarterback, which is a factoid that has definitely entertained Adam Judeaverages under 40 yards per punt and has pinned just two of seven attempts inside the opponent's 20-yard line; it seems likely that UW's offense will find themselves with very good field position following ISU punts.

Primary kick returner Aaron Prier has shown some elusiveness, as has his partner Cameron Gupton: Both have logged returns of greater than 25 yards, and Prier's best return in 2012 went for 56 yards. UW's special teams players should have enough speed to catch up to either one if they bust the kickoff coverage, but this phase of the game probably presents UW with the biggest danger of allowing Idaho State to make a big play.

As for the punt return game, there's simply not a lot to say yet: Luke Austin has fielded just two punts this season, returning one for eight yards and the other for one yard. Last year, he averaged 6.2 yards per return on five attempts, so he certainly does seem to have the ability to do some damage. Given the speed of UW's gunners, though, it's likely that he'll be calling mostly for fair catches come Saturday.

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As always, thanks to College Football Statistics, ESPN and USA Today's College Football Injury Report for the relevant data that went into this article. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking below.

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