We’ll conclude our pre-spring position reviews with another area that, on paper, could be vastly improved in 2011.
The Huskies return everybody who had anything to do with kicking, snapping, holding or catching a ball on special teams in 2010, so again, if experience means anything, there’s reason for optimism in this area.
The list of returnees includes place kicker Erik Folk (pictured above against UCLA in a Dean Rutz photo), who has developed a penchant for making the big ones in his two years as UW’s starter.
Obviously, a major emphasis this spring and in fall camp will be improving the return and coverageg units, which each underachieved much of last season, sometimes mysteriously so. But given the apparent upgrade in talent all around, and some young players who performed better on the return and coverage units at the end of the season, there’s reason to think those two areas could be better in 2010 as well (based on the e-mail I’ve gotten on this topic, a lot of UW fans may not survive if they aren’t).
PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Erik Folk, 5-11, 197, Sr.
Eric Guttorp, 5-7, 170, Sr.
Kiel Rasp, 6-3, 215, Sr./or
Will Mahan, 5-11, 200, Sr.
Jesse Callier, 5-10, 205, So.
Kevin Smith, 6-0, 197, So.
Devin Aguilar, 6-0, 188, Sr.
Jesse Callier, 5-10, 205, So.
Cody Bruns, 5-11, 177, Sr.
William Chandler, 6-0, 184, So.
Brendan Lopez, 6-0, 226, Sr.
We’ll start at the top position-wise and move down:
— Folk is back as the kicker and while he missed a few at the end of the season — he was 3-7 in the last four games — to finish 13 of 20 for the year, it doesn’t seem like much to worry about. The team hopes Folk can improve on accuracy and distance of kickoffs, however.
— Punter will be a potentially interesting battle assuming Mahan comes back healthy from an ACL tear. Rasp, a walk-on, took over and set a school record at 43.8 yards per punt, showing he’s a more-than-capable option if Mahan has any setbacks. I’d imagine this is another one that is uncertain going into fall camp. Whoever gets the job, UW appears to be in good shape here.
— Callier returns as UW’s most-used KO returner, and seemed to get better as the season went on, with a best of 57 at Cal. But there figures to be plenty of competition here throughout the spring and summer from guys like Smith, Deontae Cooper, Bishop Sankey and Marvin Hall, to name a few. UW needs to get better in this area, however, averaging just under 20.87 yards per return last season, 83rd in the nation. The talent seems there to make this a more dangerous part of UW’s game.
— That latter statement also applies for the punt return spot, which last year was held mostly by Aguilar and Bruns, the team deciding to go with a sure-handed receiver to eliminate turnovers (catching a punt is simply riskier than a KO). But UW simply was not very good returning punts last year, averaging 4.92 per attempt, 102nd in the country. Again, it seems on paper as if UW has the potential to be a lot better than that.
— Bruns is back as the holder and Lopez as the snapper, and each did solid jobs in 2010.
— UW also was not great in either coverage area last year — ninth in the Pac-10 in kickoff coverage and seventh in the Pac-10 in punt coverage — though like a lot of areas, it got better as the year went on. Again, the potential seems there for each unit to be a lot better in 2011. Exactly how the coverage units will look, however, won’t be known until the fall when all the freshmen arrive.