A position-by-position analysis of the 2015 Washington Huskies roster before national signing day on Feb. 4. Today: Specialists.
2014 review: Needing to break in new starters at all three kicking jobs, the Huskies wound up having a solid, if not spectacular, season on special teams. Sophomore Cameron Van Winkle, coming off back surgery in the fall of 2013, was stellar in his first season as the placekicker, converting 20 of 24 field-goal attempts with a long of 51 yards (tied for the 10th-longest in school history). His 83.3 percent conversion rate was the best in the Pac-12. Korey Durkee ranked fifth in the Pac-12 with an average of 42.1 yards on his 63 punts. (Take away Durkee’s seven punts in those crazy conditions against Arizona State and his average boosts to 43.6.) Better yet, Durkee’s new rugby-style punting helped the Huskies lead the Pac-12 in punt coverage. UW opponents managed just 12 punt returns all season, with an average of 4.2 yards per return. True freshman Tristan Vizcaino handled the majority of the kickoffs, with 17 touchbacks on his 70 kickoffs. UW ranked third in the Pac-12 in allowing 20.3 yards per kickoff return (with no touchdowns), and its 63 kickoffs covered were the second-most in the Pac-12. … It was a breakthrough season in return game. John Ross III returned two kickoffs for a touchdown, giving him three for his career to tie the school record (Jim Krieg, 1970-71). Overall, Ross scored seven total touchdowns in 2014, on plays of 91, 20, 55, 75, 86, 100 and 96 yards — an average of 75 yards per touchdown play. True freshman Dante Pettis averaged 10.3 yards on his 28 punt returns. That’s the best individual return average for a Husky since Charles Frederick (11.7) in 2003, and Pettis’ 87-yard TD return at Colorado was the first such TD for UW since Frederick did so in 2003. That snapped the longest drought without a punt return TD among all major-college teams.
LS — A.J. Carty*, 6-3, 250, Servite HS (Anaheim, Calif.)
P — Korey Durkee, sr., 6-4, 230
PK — Cameron Van Winkle, jr., 5-10, 180
P/PK — Tristan Vizcaino, so., 6-2, 210
LS — Ryan Masel, sr., 6-1, 199
LS — Luke Hutchison, so., 6-2, 221
KR — John Ross III, jr., 5-11, 179
PR — Dante Pettis, so., 6-0, 177
2015 outlook: The outlook is promising with everyone returning. Vizcaino should continue to push both Van Winkle and Durkee for playing time. There’s a chance we could see Budda Baker back more often on kickoff returns, especially if Ross plays both offense and defense, or even one of the dynamic incoming freshman such as Austin Joyner or Chico McClatcher. Overall, special teams was a strength for the Huskies in 2014 and, based on experience and comfort in the system, should be even more so in 2015.
*committed to sign with UW on Feb. 4.