Washington overall has had inconsistent special teams play for nearly a decade. A lot of that has to do with the lack of depth and talent on the roster. Another key part has been the lack of special-specialists to emerge from within the roster.
The Huskies head into spring without a clear leader for either of the kicking positions. PK Erik Folk starts his third season with the team as a RS sophomore. He has been contending with an injured back since the day he arrived at Washington. Coaches are counting on him to be ready to compete for the first time this spring.
If Folk isn't ready count on Washington to use the casting call technique to find somebody that can put the football up between the uprights. UW could also turn to a JC player if available this late to help fill the void. Folk has the bloodlines and the talent coming out of HS to do a decent job if he can overcome what has become a chronic back problem.
If Folk isn't ready this spring UW just may give him a medical scholarship which would allow them to give his ride to someone else on the roster.
The Huskies picked up one of the top JC punters in the country in William Mahan from Bakersfield JC. He won't be here this spring because he is still finishing four classes according to Dawgman to become eligible. Mahan has two years of eligibility left and all reports indicate that he can fill the job nicely.
The return game showed some potential last year and the Huskies have some prime candidates who will compete for the jobs this spring. Devin Aguilar, Jordan Polk, Chris Polk, D'Andre Goodwin, David Freeman, and Quinton Richardson all come to mind as players with the potential to contribute here.
This fall frosh WR James Johnson will arrive and he has the chance to play right away on special teams according to the coaches. I really liked the film of him returning the ball in high school.
I thought Aguilar was the most natural player back there as far as punt returns go. I like the idea of Jordan and Chris Polk teaming up on kickoff returns. D'Andre Goodwin fits in anywhere but as the top returning receiver I think they may just keep him in that role to preserve his health.
Washington has the speed to do something in the return game but blocking and speed is the thing that makes this phase of the game click. I think we can expect improvement from this part of the team with a lot of young players returning who played or redshirted last season.
Danny Morovick returns as the designated snapper. He may be the last player receruited solely for that purpose, Ideally you should be able to find somebody on your roster who can do that without giving one of your precious scholarships to a limited one dimensional player.
As far as coverage units go that is all dependent on coaching, speed, talent, and depth. I though Brian White did a nice job last season working with what he had. The team seemed to improve in this regard. What happens this season is anyones guess but Sarkisian is known as a guy who puts a lot of emphasis on special team play. Hopefully that emphasis translates into increased perfromance.
In conclusion special teams relies on having excellent specialists. Washington has question marks at punter and place kicker that could derail the whole thing before fall camp even convenes. Folk needs to gethealthy and Mahan needs to get in.
Secondly special teams performance is directly related to the depth and speed you have on the roster. Washington lacks quality depth and speed going in. It should be better than last year because of the 2007 recruiting class becoming to come of age.
Finally you have the coaching aspect. Sarkisian wants to win this part of the game each week because he feels it makes up a full third of a teams performance on Saturday. When a coach makes a conscious effort to do that it makes a difference.
No matter how well you coach you need the players to make the plays and be better than the opposition in head to head combat. Washington has a lot to prove between now and September to start playing at that level. The Huskies need people that can block , tackle, and run if special teams is going to make the type of impact Sarkisian is looking for in 2009.