The Cougs' 5 best special teams players

THE LACK OF a scholarship kicker or punter at Washington State makes this pre-spring list one of the most intriguing when it comes to spring drills, which begin out on the Palouse March 27.

It also makes it one of the hardest to compile.

Sure, one of the walk on kickers or punters a few months from now could have Cougar fans singing their praises. Or, he could just as easily be another number on the sidelines -- that's the reality heading into spring ball when there's such a dearth of proven experience at the two positions.

That said, special teams is about more than just a team's kicker or punter, such as return men, gunners and long snappers. And there, the picture is at least a little clearer.

In no particular order:

Theron West:
Usually when you're talking about a punt-blocker, they're long and lean -- an undersized defensive end-type, perhaps. But West blocked two punts this past season, and he stands all of 5-7, 172-pounds. West made a splash at running back in the bowl practices and he figures to get a long look there this spring. But WSU is almost certainly going to employ him on special teams as well and regardless of how much he might line up in the backfield. And with Leon Brooks graduating, the shifty West could also be the punt return man heir apparent.

Alex Den Bleyker
There aren't many positions more anonymous than long snapper. Until there's a bad snap. Fortunately for Cougar fans, Den Bleyker has kept a low profile in that regard ever since taking over the long snapper's job at the tail end of the 2011 season. There have been challengers since, but none have been able to match Den Bleyker's accuracy and consistency. From this chair, pre-spring, this is the most solid of all the Cougs' special teams positions.

Kristoff Williams
When it comes to gunners, you could place Isiah Myers and West here as well. But because of his skills set, particularly his strength and ability to beat the press, Williams has great potential here. CF.C has long said Williams has the potential to consistency be a great Pac-12 receiver, (and he turned in a solid junior season as the Cougs' third-leading receiver last season with 51 catches.) He also possesses the same high ceiling on special teams. Could his final season on the Palouse be one for the books? We begin to find out this spring.

Rickey Galvin/Teondray Caldwell
Galvin and Caldwell returned the bulk of kickoffs last season -- Galvin averaged 22.4 yards on 24 returns, Caldwell averaged 22.9 on 15 returns. That's just not explosive enough. The Cougs very much need one of the two (or someone else) to chew up more yards, and to hang onto the ball. Special teams coach Eric Russell told CF.C earlier this year both the punt and kickoff return positions will be "wide open" this spring. So for those counting, you have wide open position battles at both return spots, kicker and punter. Speaking of punters...

Wes Concepcion:
The Cougs' only spring participant at either punter or kicker with any game experience, Concepcion took over for the struggling Mike Bowlin last year and punted 12 times, averaging a so-so 36.2 yards per boot. But Cougar fans are hoping Concepcion spent this offseason living in the weight room and working tirelessly on his craft. And why shouldn't he? After all, he's a fifth-year walk on presented with the rare opportunity of having a starting job in the Pac-12 presented to him on a silver platter, one right there for the taking.

NOTABLE NOTE:
There will of course be WSU rookies coming this fall who may provide nice special teams fits. But for this spring as far as newcomers go, keep an eye out potentially for Marcellus Pippins and Calvin Green on returns and Dylan Hanser at gunner.

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