The Spring Position Breakdowns make their final stop at a vitally important group of personnel: special teams!
Performance in 2022
The performance by the special teams group was up-and-down throughout 2022. On the one hand, Peyton Henry was excellent, going 19 for 22 on field goals with a season long field goal of 50 yards at the Rose Bowl against UCLA, additionally chipping in 58 extra points on 59 attempts. Some of those field goals Henry made were extremely significant. A 43-yard game winner against Oregon excised his rivalry demons from 4 years prior in 2018, and a 22-yard game winner in the swirling wind against Oregon State both cemented him in Husky lore, not only as a clutch kicker, but as UW’s all-time leading scorer, as he surpassed Jeff Jaeger with 402 career points.
On the other hand, the Dawgs’ punting game was stymied by a lackluster yards-per-punt average, as Jack McCallister couldn’t quite find his footing, averaging 40.8 yards per punt, albeit on only 23 punts. The saving grace of the Dawgs’ punting game was that scarcity, as McCalister wasn’t called upon much throughout the year. The addition of a preferred walk-on at punter should clue fans in on the plans for this group moving forward, as they might sense that new blood is needed at the position to set the defense up for more favorable field position. On the returning front, the main beneficiary of both kickoff and punt returns was Giles Jackson, returning 15 kicks for 312 yards and 5 punts for 45 yards. Trailing him, we find Cam Davis, taking 7 kicks for 148 yards. Jack Westover and Wayne Taulapapa each fielded kicks for 15 and 12 yards respectively, and Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze and Dominique Hampton each fielded at least one punt in 2022.
Adam Saul, 6’6”, 185 pounds-From El Camino College (Torrence, Calif.), Walk on
The unusually tall punter comes to the Dawgs as a walk-on from El Camino College, his second stop, after previously redshirting at Illinois State. His numbers at El Camino College were an improvement over McCallister’s numbers in 2022, standing at 55 punts for 2330 yards, good for a 42.4 yards per punt average, which would’ve tied him for fifth in the PAC-12 in yards per punt with WSU’s Nick Haberer. Granted, El Camino is a Junior College, but kicking is kicking. Saul’s numbers prove promising, and this addition adds yet another wrinkle to the special teams position battles.
Peyton Henry, out of eligibility
Though Henry wasn’t going to nail 60 yarders, his accuracy and consistency over 5 seasons will be his endearing legacy, at least in my mind. With lifetime percentages of 98.4% on extra points (189-192) and 80.7% on field goals (71-88), his scoring record could standfor a while. He endured coaching changes, first from Coach Petersen to Coach Lake, then from Coach Lake to Coach Deboer, and remained consistent. Losing him, the Huskies now have to fill a hole at the placekicker spot, something easier said than done sometimes. I wish Peyton Henry luck, and I hope wherever he ends up, he can continue being a very accurate kicker for years to come.
Kevin Ryan, out of eligibility
The transfer from Idaho State couldn’t win the starting punter job, losing out to Jack McCallister before the season began. In his limited game action against Colorado, his one punt went for 37 yards. The distance that was promised when he came out of Idaho State never came to fruition, and Husky fans are left to wonder what could’ve been. Of course, I would doubt anyone would trade our explosive offensive showing last year for more punts, but you have to make the most of your opportunities when called upon.
Storylines to Watch
- Who Gets to Kick?
Kicker is often an underrated position at the college level. It’s one that not many people notice unless they’re given a reason to, whether good or bad. It’s one that is a complicated one to fill, and if coaches do a bad job of it, it could mean the difference between a win or loss. The Huskies are faced with a tough decision at place kicker, as they are presently deciding between 2 kickers. There’s Grady Gross, the 5 foot 11, 212 pound kickoff specialist, who, although he did a fine job on kickoffs, we have yet to see kick a field goal or extra point. A barely more proven commodity at the position is Addison Shrock, although his lone extra point this season came against Colorado in the 4th quarter. We should start to see reports of who’s winning the race for the starting job coming into fall camp, that is, if the roster stays static, which is no guarantee.
2. Better Call Saul?
Punting was probably the weakest stat for the Huskies last season, and the coaches seemed to think so. By bringing in Adam Saul, they are clearly looking to engender competition which may galvanize McCalister to unlock his full potential. Right now, Saul clearly is a threat to take the starting job, and we’ll see who suits up behind long snapper Jaden Green in week 1 against Boise State.
3. The Return of Electricity
Giles Jackson is a good wide receiver, and his ability to slide into the running back position if need be proves vital for Ryan Grubb’s offense. But there was another dimension to Giles’ game that he has yet to tap into at UW. Jackson managed to return 2 kickoffs for touchdowns in his 2 seasons at Michigan, but he has yet to break one at Washington. Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that Dante Pettis set the career NCAA record for punt return touchdowns with 9. Since then, we’ve seen one punt return go for 6, an 88 yarder returned by Aaron Fuller against BYU in 2019. Only time will tell if Jackson, or anyone else, can run one back, and bring an extra dimension to the Huskies’ scoring attack.
What do you think about the Huskies’ prospects at Special Teams? Sound off in the comments!