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Washington Huskies Fall Camp Preview: Punters and Kickers

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Can I kick it? Tristan can!

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that special teams play can be just as significant to the outcome of a game as offense or defense. It’s so easy to overlook the significance of a new punter or kicker during the off season, until a punt is blocked or a kick is missed and everyone grabs their torches and pitchforks. Well, this year the Huskies transition in a new punter AND (place) kicker. Let’s assess the situation.

Who’s Gone

Cameron Van Winkle

The Huskies have to replace the second most accurate and third highest scoring kicker in school history. Van Winkle’s career .812 field-goal percentage is impressive, given that the average college football field-goal percentage is around .730 (as of 2014).

Who’s Back

Tristan Vizcaino

Vizcaino is entering his senior year and returns as the most experienced punter and kicker on the roster. He’s been the Huskies’ kickoff specialist since his freshman year and last season became the team’s punter as well. He has a very strong leg and put up solid numbers in both roles, but will now transition to be the team’s primary place kicker including kickoffs, field goals and PATs. Reports are that punting duties will be handed off to another player on the roster...

Click on this link to read a recent Adam Jude story covering Vizcaino.

If you’re a Dawgman.com subscriber, check out their recent interview with Vizcaino here.

And here’s some footage from a kicking camp a little over a month ago:

Van Soderberg

Redshirt freshman punter/place kicker out of Capitol High School (Olympia). As a recruit, he was one of the highest rated punters and place kickers in the country and will likely be a big part of Washington’s kicking game in the future. Last year, it was thought that he might take over punting duties from Vizcaino entering this season; however he may have lost that roll to newcomer Joel Whitford (see below). Here’s his bio.

Sebastian Valerio

The redshirt sophomore walk-on has not seen any game action for the Huskies in his two years on campus. He’s competing with Soderberg to be the No. 2 place kicker behind Vizcaino. Click here for his bio.

Race Porter

A redshirt freshman punter out of O’Dea (Seattle - duh). Apparently he impressed the coaching staff during spring and fall camp, but might have an uphill battle for playing time with Whitford on the roster (again, see below). Check his bio here.

Who’s New

Joel Whitford

If you follow this blog, you’ll likely remember Joel from his unique LOI signing location:

The sophomore transfer from Santa Barbra City College is originally from Australia and grew up playing rugby and Aussie Rules Football. He comes from the same Australian program that produced the last two Ray Guy award winners, Utah’s Tom Hackett (2014 & 2015) and Mitch Wishnowsky (2016). Coach Pete has long preferred the “rugby-style” punt, as it is typically harder to defend against and catch. He liked it enough to make Vizcaino adjust to that style last season, which he did admirably. By all accounts, Whitford is running away with the starting punting job and should be a real weapon for the Huskies moving forward.

Check out his freshman year (2015) highlights from SBCC below. He sat out the 2016 season to preserve his NCAA eligibility, effectively redshirting. He’s also 23 years old, 6’ 3” and about 225 lbs. This guy is a grown ass man.

Peyton Henry

A true freshman out of Monte Vista in Danville, California. He was high school teammates with UW freshman QB Jake Haener. Check out this footage of Henry at a kicking camp in 2016. Here’s his bio.

Summary

So as it stands, Vizcaino is the projected starting place kicker, while all signs point to Whitford as taking over the punting duties. Despite one transitioning into a new kicking role and the other entering his first D1 college football season, the Huskies appear to be in a good place in terms of guys who can put their boot on the ball. At this point, it doesn’t appear that there’s much competition at either spot, so get ready to see a lot of Vizcaino and Whitford this season.

On a closing note, remember that kicking is hard. Hopefully now that you are a little more familiar with these guys, if and when any of them make a mistake this season (knock on wood), you’ll feel slightly less inclined to reach for those torches and pitchforks.

Go Dawgs.