Midseason Grades - Special Teams

We're at the midway point of the 2013 football season and Washington is sporting a 4-2 record. Here's a look at each special teams position and coverage unit and how they've fared so far this season as well as what to look forward to during the second half of the season...

Kickers/Punters: Well, unfortunately for the Huskies, Travis Coons remains the placeholder for both the placekicking and kickoff duties as well as the punting job. The goal from the coaches was for him to be the punter and placekicker while allowing Cameron Van Winkle or another player to handle the kickoff chores. After five games though, it became obvious that something was wrong with Van Winkle as he was unable to drive the ball and rarely found the endzone. The results were horrendous (see below) for the Dawgs, especially versus Stanford, so the change was made last week with Coons resuming his duties as the kickoff man as well. Coons has been most impressive as a punter, averaging 40.7 while dropping 10 of his 24 punts inside the 20 and registering four punts over 50 yards. As a kicker, he has hit all five of his attempts with a long of 42 that was hit in miserable conditions during Washington's game against Arizona three weeks ago. On the negative side, he did miss an extra point in that game and last week he was unable to get the ball into the endzone for a touchback, allowing Oregon's talented return men to put the Ducks in great starting field position. The hope is that Van Winkle regains his confidence and gets healthy so that he can resume the kickoff duties while Coons continues to focus on the punting and placekicking jobs he's been so good at this year. From a placekicking and punting standpoint, the Huskies get an "A", but since kickoffs are a big part of this equation and that area has been a "D" at best (giving credit for Van Winkle's 11 touchbacks), the overall grade is a "B".

Midseason Grade: B

Coverage Teams: In the first few games of the season, the Huskies did an adequate job of covering kickoffs, but in the Stanford and Oregon games, they have been abysmal. The kickoff coverage was probably the biggest reason the Huskies lost to Stanford. Regardless of how short the kickoffs are, there is absolutely no reason that the players on the coverage teams should be getting blown out of their lanes, thus allowing the big returns and, in Ty Montgomery's case, an opening kickoff return for a touchdown and another one in the third quarter that gave the Cardinal great field position and also led to a touchdown. The punt coverage has been decent, but a big reason for that has been the lack of opportunities because of Coons' ability to get great hangtime and placement on his punts. If we were just judging kickoff coverage, this area would get an F, but since the punt coverage has been adequate, we will give them a "D".

Midseason Grade: D

Returners: You would think Washington could find someone to be a special return man for them, but, at least to this point, they just haven't found that guy yet. Kasen Williams had a 49-yard return after the safety against Arizona, setting up a very important field goal in that game, but the rest of the team has averaged 19.6 yards per kickoff return and 3.4 yards per punt return. The most promising looking return man appears to be freshman John Ross, but he's looked very tentative at times and even coughed up the ball on a punt return against Idaho State (it was recovered by the Huskies). Some of this has to do with the blocking being provided, but overall it is the lack of explosiveness and decisiveness by the returners that makes this a huge area of focus for improvement over the next six games.

Midseason Grade: D

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