Husky Football: Position Preview – ST

John Ross returning a kick against Cal in 2013.

John Ross returning a kick against Cal in 2013.

Husky Football: Position Preview – ST

Husky Football is only two days away as the Dawgs take on Hawaii this Saturday at 7:30pm PT. With the season right around the corner we will be rounding out our fall camp position previews. The special teams have been an area of concern since the departure of do-it-all kicker, Travis Coons.

 

Who’s Gone:

Travis Coons: Coons was perhaps the most under-appreciated player last year. He kicked off, kicked field goals, and even punted. To put all three kicking duties on one player and demand consistent performance is a tall task for any kicker, collegiate or professional. However, Coons was nearly a sure thing each time he lined up for a field goal or extra point. He also performed admirably at kicking off and punting. His triple threat leg will surely be missed this season. Coons is competing for the starting kicker position with the Tennessee Titans.

 

2014-2015 Specialists:

Kicker:

Cameron Van Winkle: (5-10 180 lbs; Sophomore) Van Winkle has been the most accurate and powerful kicker throughout fall camp and has separated himself as the first string place kicker. Van Winkle has also solidified himself as the kick-off starter to begin the season. He had off-season back surgery and seems to have made a 100% recovery since then. The Huskies will need an injury free and consistent season from Van Winkle.

Tristan Viscaino: (6-2 210 lbs; Freshman) Viscaino has done nothing but compete for the starting kicking job from the moment he stepped on campus. Viscaino has shown a strong leg, but has lacked the required accuracy and consistency throughout fall camp. With that being said, it seems as if Coach Pete will give Viscaino a shot at kicking at some point this weekend against Hawaii.

Mitch Johnson: (6-1 197 lbs; Sophomore) Johnson spent the past two seasons at UCLA and walked on at UW this spring. Due to transfer rules Johnson will have to sit out this year. Expect him to compete for the starting kicking job next season.

Punter:

Korey Durkee: (6-4 230 lbs; Junior) Durkee has displayed a very strong leg all fall camp; he booted two 60+ yard punts during the fall scrimmage. However, Durkee has not been as consistent as the coaches would like. He will get the first crack at punting this weekend versus Hawaii.

Tristan Viscaino: (6-2 210 lbs; Freshman) Viscaino has also been battling for the starting punting spot. He performed fairly well at the fall scrimmage; however he is more of a rugby style punter than a traditional drop-kicker. With that being said, it seems as if Coach Pete will also give Viscaino a shot at punting at some point this weekend against Hawaii.

 

Long Snapper:

Ryan Masel: (6-1 199 lbs; Junior) Masel did a great job long snapping last season. There is a saying that goes like this, “If you don’t know the name of your team’s long snapper he is probably doing a good job.” Expect nothing less in his second season as the starting long snapper.

Luke Hutchinson: (6-2 221; Redshirt Freshman) Hutchinson provides depth at the long snapping position, but barring any injuries to Masel don’t expect him to get any meaningful playing time.

Kick Returner:

John Ross III: (5-11 179 lbs; Sophomore) Ross is poised to have one of the best years a Husky kick returner has ever had. Ross possesses the vision, shiftiness, and straight line speed that is required to be an elite kick returner. Expect Ross to return three or more kicks for touchdowns this season. For old times sake, here is his kick return in the bowl game last season:

Budda Baker: (5-10 173 lbs; Freshman) Similar to Ross, Budda has vision, creativity, and the speed to be an impact player on special teams. Budda is a state champion in the 100 and 200 meter sprints and that is evident when he gets the ball with an open field in front of him. Budda will get his chances at returning kicks, and when he does don’t blink because something exciting is bound to happen.

Punt Returner:

Jaydon Mickens: (5-11 174 lbs; Junior) Mickens has shown the sound decision making and soft hands necessary to be an effective punt returner. Returning punts is more than simply catching the ball and running, a punt returner must constantly be aware of where he is on the field and whether to catch the punt or let it roll. Mickens is a leader in the locker room and has been cool under pressure making him a logical choice to return punts.

Marvin Hall: (5-10 188 lbs; Junior) Hall was the starting punt returner all of last season and performed admirably. He had several long returns and a touchdown called back due to holding penalties. He will certainly get his chances to return punts in certain situations throughout the season.

 

2014 Outlook:

The special teams unit is perhaps the one area of the 2014 Husky team that remains the most uncertain. All three kicking positions remain open, and throughout the first four weeks of the regular season expect to see some shuffling of players throughout the three kicking positions. With that being said, Van Winkle has taken steps in the right direction to solidifying himself as the place-kicker and kick-off starter. The punting job is still anybody’s guess; personally I would give a slight edge to Durkee from my experiences at the public practices and fall scrimmage. Although the kicking game is still shaky in areas, the 2014 Huskies will have an elite returning game. With the combined speed, elusiveness, and experience of John Ross, Jaydon Mickens, Marvin Hall, and Budda Baker the 2014 Dawgs have one of the most promising and exciting return games in the country.

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