Just for kicks

So who is the top guy this spring? Is there a clear number one player on the depth chart, or are we going to go through it with a "by-committee" type of rotation? And no, we are not talking about the big tailback competition that everyone else is intrigued in. This is about a group of guys who do not always get the credit that they deserve. This is about a group of young men who have the spring all to themselves to show some leg for the coaches and to get their names out there.

Meet the Huskies spring kicking team.

Who are Evan Knudson, Ricardo DoValle, Ben Hoefer, and Jeff Clay? Most fans may not know it, but they represent the current group of kickers on the team.

Sandwiched between the departure of the celebrated John Anderson and the yet-to-arrive Michael Braunstein, the three walk-on kickers combine to have zero kickoffs, zero extra points, and zero field goals to their credit.

In short, they have yet to see the field on game day.

Clay and Knudson have both began kicking duties their senior year of high schools at Lynnwood High School and North Thurston High School respectively. Hoefer has been kicking since his sophomore year at Woodinville High School, and DoValle has been kicking since eighth grade.

Each has different reasons for committing to the Huskies football program.

"I was just going to school here and decided to walk on," said Clay. Hoefer also saw it as somewhat of an impulse move and decided to join the team.

Knudson's brother, Channing Wyles was a kicker at Washington during the 90's which gave him his inspiration.

"I just wanted to go to a good school," said DoValle. "At first, kicking was sort of secondary but I heard about try-outs and ever since then, it's been pretty important."

All four players hope that they are given a shot to be the heir apparent to Anderson's legendary kicking shoes this fall. With almost everyone already penciling-in Braunstein as the starter, each walk-on player sees the spring as an opportunity to get a head start in hopes of getting some serious looks this fall.

"We've had chances to kick and stuff, but this is really our chance to display our talent. This is first chance we've had to do that," DoValle said.

The life of a walk-on player is glamorous to say the least. The life of a kicker is not something most people envy. Combine the two, and you sort of have a "double-whammy."

"It's kind of intimidating at first," said Clay. "Everybody is big but you get used to it."

The quartet feels they had a good mentor in Anderson.

"To have a kicker like that will always make you work hard and aim to improve," Knudson said.

"He just inspires you," said DoValle. "He was such a good kicker and to have him on your team just makes you want to be a good kicker for the Huskies."

But even though they do not see the field as much as the other players, they still share the same dream as everyone else.

"This year, we're thinking the National Championship," said Hoefer. "That's our goal and at the top of the list. The Pac-10 Championship and the National championship is what it's about."

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