Coming into this season, the expectations for UW’s kickoff and punt return duo of John Ross III and Dante Pettis were sky high. Both returners had a knack for hitting electric returns, and going the distance at any point.
There was definitely some nagging concern about Mr. Ross’ ability to keep his top-end speed after recovering from an ACL tear in the spring of 2015. However, those doubts were quickly put to rest in the first game of the season against Rutgers.
Dante Pettis was also expected to continue his touchdown-scoring ways this season, and he’s done nothing to dampen them.
The Season up to this Point
The kick returners got off to a quick start this season, and the start has only slowed down a little bit. While the kickoff returns haven’t yielded any more touchdowns, the kickoff return game has remained solid. Right now, the Huskies rank 13th in the nation in kickoff return averages, with 27.18 yards per return. The big problem is that the Husky defense is playing so well, the Dawgs just aren’t getting to return the ball very often.
I checked a couple of lists, and John Ross isn’t listed in the top 100 kickoff returners in the country, because he’s not averaging enough returns per game. Right now he’s only averaging .8 returns a game, so I put him in there myself. He should be ranked third in the nation with 35 yards per return. So there.
The punt return game has regressed a bit more back to the mean. While they Huskies are averaging a respectable 12.27 yards per return, that still puts them all the way back at 28th in the country, but third in the conference behind only Oregon and USC, who are perennially lights out at the position.
Status Entering the Bye Week
Coming into a much-deserved bye week, the Huskies are healthy at both positions. Honestly, the whole team is relatively healthy. So the bye week is more of a benefit to the rest of the Pac-12, since they don’t have to worry about getting beat up by Washington for another week.
Up next, the Huskies play the Beavers, who are on a one-game winning streak after a barn burner against Cal that almost turned into a horror movie for them. Their kickoff return coverage has been respectable. Right now the Beavers are allowing an average of 21.5 yards per return this season, which puts them in 9th place in the conference. Their punt return coverage is much better as the Beavers are allowing a meager 3.71 yards per punt return. That puts them firmly in 4th place in the conference, behind Arizona State, Washington, and Washington State.
Down the final stretch I'll wager a guess that teams will continue to kick away from John Ross. Unfortunately they wont be able to do that every kickoff.
It's also only a matter of time before Dante Pettis breaks open another big return or two as well.