SPRING BALL: Coug special teams roundup

WHEN THE COUGS do run their first official scrimmage later this spring, Washington State special teamers Andrew Furney and Mike Bowlin are likely to do something they haven't done a whole lot of this spring.

Kick live-action field goals.

And kickoffs.

Sure, Furney has gotten in a few field goal kicks before practice really gets moving, maybe 3-5 each practice. Virtually all of them have been short tries, generally 30-35 yard attempts, says CF.C Correspondent Joe Doyle.

The number of practice hours allowed during the spring are limited by the NCAA plus the Cougs don't have the room with the construction going on to allocate a large area of practice field to field goal and kickoffs. There are other areas of focus that have been the higher priorities.

The same could be said for punting, too. Bowlin gets his punts in by kicking sideline to sideline, sometimes over the heads of practicing players. (A college football field is 53.33 yards wide.) Kickoffs have been practically non-existent through the first eight practices.

It probably also helps that the Cougs know what they have in Furney and Bowlin.

THAT SAID, how has Furney been doing on his short field goals? He's been good, says Doyle, with improved accuracy over last spring. (It should be noted that Furney has a little Jason Gesser in him. Past spring ball and fall camp practices have seen some inconsistency. But when the games count on Saturdays, he's been money.

Bowlin has been solid as well -- 45-50 yard punts have been common.

INTERESTINGLY, FURNEY HAS been stride for stride with Bowlin in punting. Important to note -- there doesn't appear to be a competition for Bowlin's job going on or anything like that. But Furney can punt. There's no question about that, says Doyle.

If for example Bowlin were, unfortunately, to suffer an injury, Furney might be the punting go-to guy for the Cougs. In one recent practice, Furney had the long punt of the day, one that caterwauled into the stands. Doyle estimated it went 60-plus yards in the air.

When they're not punting or kicking field goals, the kickers and punters work on various drills, extra stretching and onside kicks. They get their work in, says Doyle.

SPECIAL TEAMS COACH Eric Russell told CF.C one of the top priorities this spring was to find a holder. So how's that been going? Well, it really has yet to get started, for reasons listed above.

In the limited times there has been a holder, it's usually been Bowlin and Brett Bartolone. Russell told CF.C that Gabe Marks might be a candidate as well. Based on what Russell said pre-spring, it would seem probable to see an increased focus on that area before the spring session comes to an end.

WHAT ABOUT THE gunners? That's a work in progress this far, with about 10-15 guys in the mix.

One who has stood out early at the gunner spot is Anthony Carpenter, says Doyle. But that also comes with the caveat that much of the work there has yet to take place and there are a number of Cougs who could rise up over the remainder of the spring and the fall camp session to come.

As for the return men, there is a core of four who have been seeing the most work on both punt and kickoff return, with the football launched through the machine. They are Bartolone, Leon Brooks, Rahmel Dockery and Robert Lewis.

There's not enough live data in yet try and tab a frontrunner, how they would fare when trying to pick their way upfield is unknown. It can be noted to date that Lewis is the only one who has struggled a bit in securing the purchase on the pigskin.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Long snapping: Alex Den Bleyker and Ryan Saparto continue to compete this spring. Den Bleyker is the incumbent and would appear the favorite after doing a solid job last season.

  • Wes Concepcion and fellow walk on Thomas Fossedal have been both up and down punting so far this spring. They continue to work on their mechanics and ironing out the kinks. Bowlin and Furney have been far more consistent through the first eight practices.

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