Joe Jarzynka has settled down some these days. The 5-foot-7 former Husky walk-on from Gig Harbor, married to his high school sweetheart, has two kids and lives in north Tacoma. He dabbles in semi-pro soccer, but at 37 he’s not the same, carefree, do-anything-to-gain-a-yard return man he was for UW in the late ’90s.
“For me, I was always trying to prove a point,” he said this week. “I don’t think it was a small-guy point: ‘I’m small, look what I can do!’ I wasn’t getting the looks on offense I felt I deserved, and the only time I had to play was when I was on special teams. So I wasn’t going to let an opportunity to catch the ball go by.”
The Huskies have had some special athletes return punts over the past decade — Anthony Russo, Devin Aguilar, Kasen Williams, to name a few — but no one has been able to return a punt for a touchdown since Charles Frederick‘s 86-yard return in 2003. It’s the longest streak of any major-college team in the nation without one. Oregon, by comparison, has 17 of punt returns for a TD since 2004.
On average, a team might only get one or two decent chances to return a punt each game, so you could argue it’s not a huge deal that UW hasn’t had a touchdown return in its last 220 attempts. But nothing seems to get a sideline more excited than a long return, either on a punt or a kickoff (see Ty Montgomery‘s two long kickoff returns vs. UW last year). It can be a game-changing-type play, no doubt.
“It’s about picking the guy who’s going to do things slightly different than everybody else,” Jarzynka said. “It’s one thing to say, ‘That’s our best athlete, put him back there.’ That guy might be really fast, but that doesn’t necessarily transfer to being a good punt returner. It’s just not the same.”
A team needs more than just a fearless return man to make a good punt return. The 10 other guys have to block well. It helps, too, to have a defense that can make a key stop on third down and force an extra punt or two a game.
Freshman Dante Pettis seems to be comfortable in the role now — he had four punt returns for 48 yards against Illinois — and UW should have the upper hand against Georgia State to, perhaps, set up something special on Saturday.
- Bud Withers‘ Week 4 Pac-12 picks.
- From Christian Caple: Petersen hoping for more touches for John Ross and Kasen Williams.
- Georgia State will have three new defensive starters vs. UW.
- Jim Mora continues to be coy about Brett Hundley‘s status.
- Also, as of early Thursday afternoon, the Huskies had distributed about 61,000 tickets for Saturday.
— UW Football (@UW_Football) September 18, 2014