(32) P Joel Whitford (©M. Samek / SCOUT)

Washington Huskies Spring Position Review - Special Teams

Now that Spring Football is done at Montlake, it's time to take stock of what took place and what it means as the program heads into the doldrums - aka, the summer. We finish up our position-by-position reviews with the Specialists. 

Specialists (By Year) 


Vizcaino, who moved back to placekicker after punting in 2016, was 4-7 during the Spring Preview, with a long of 38. With Cameron Van Winkle having matriculated, it's up to Vizcaino to pick up the slack. It's very hard to really get a great handle on how a placekicker will be in the fall based on spring, and other than having some 'live' moments each practice where he was usually better than not, there's just not a lot to go on. Replacing a four-year kicker is always difficult, but Vizcaino was 15-21 in his high school career, with a long of 47 yards. 


Valerio was 4-6 during the Spring Preview, with a long of 39. There's not much to go by when looking up how the redshirt sophomore walk-on has done at UW so far in his college career, because he hasn't been asked to do anything. Between Van Winkle and Vizcaino the last two seasons, there was no need. But there might be a very real need this fall, so it was good to see Valerio be reasonably accurate with his field goals. He dropped six pounds in the offseason, presumably to get fully fit for a season where he might be asked to compete for the starting placekicker role, or at the very least an able backup in case anything happens to Vizcaino. 


Ever since Tom Hackett and Mitch Wishnowsky appeared on the scene at Utah, the college football world has wondered about the connection between Australian Rules players and how their kicking prowess could cross over into a possible specialist role in the college game. The Huskies have bought in to what Utah has done with Hackett and Wishnowsky, and although it was a small sample size this spring we got to see some serious rugby punting - not just down the same side of the field with distance, but also clear across the field. There's no doubt this kind of kicking could be a real weapon for UW, and Whitford is the kind of specialist worth spending a scholarship on to see if he can help win games the way Hackett and Wishnowsky have helped the Utes win games. 


Soderberg has been a real enigma since stepping on campus for spring football this past season. But difficulties in mastering the one step dropped pushed back the Olympia native's progress a bit. This spring was supposed to be where Soderberg could prove to be Washington's next Vizcaino - a specialist that could punt or kick where needed - but he was one of the walking wounded during April, adding another setback to his resume. Will the redshirt frosh be healthy and able to push both Vizcaino at placekicker and Whitford and Race Porter at punter? Only time will tell. It would have been nice to see how much progress Soderberg had made during his redshirt season, but we won't get a taste until at least August. 


If there was a real wildcard that came out of nowhere this spring for Washington Football, it was Race Porter. The redshirt frosh from O'Dea saw that Van Soderberg was out for spring, so what did he do? He got right in the fray with Joel Whitford, showing off a fantastic leg. Now his consistency isn't there yet. That might take some time. But in the few weeks we got a chance to see Porter punt, he definitely brought back memories of another recent walk-on punter that ended up being a very valuable UW special teams player - Kiel Rasp. Could Porter follow in Rasp's footsteps? So far, he has every opportunity to do so, although some of it might come down to Soderberg's status and what he can do in the fall. 

Where do the Specialists stand heading into the summer? 

The kicking specialists were always going to be a bit of a mess in the spring. That was due to a combination of factors. 1) They just don't kick all that much in live situations in spring, especially the punters. 2) Kicking in practice, even with simulated pressure, is never quite like the real thing. 3) A lot of newcomers and veterans going back to previous positions. 

That being said, there were three observations to make based on what was seen during spring ball. 

1) Tristan Vizcaino is definitely the man UW will lean on to make big kicks this fall. He hasn't been asked to do it before in any consistent capacity, but he was a good placekicker in high school. 

2) As solid as Vizcaino was last year punting the ball, the punting situation should be a lot more dynamic this fall. They could go with one style of kicker, or use a combination of traditional punting styles and the more in vogue rugby look. They have the legs that can do both and it's going to give Special Teams Coordinator Bob Gregory a lot of flexibility to do different things and possibly even run fakes off those looks. 

3) The future of Van Soderberg remains as uncertain as ever. At first we thought it was simply going to be a year of getting used to one-step punting before Soderberg 'got it', but now with the emergence of Joel Whitford and Race Porter, punting may not be his future at all. It may be kicking the ball, especially with Vizcaino graduating after the 2017 season. It feels like we won't see a lot of Van the Man until roughly this time next year. 

Special Teams Depth Chart 


43 Tristan Vizcaino (6-2, 206, Sr.) 

42 Van Soderberg (6-0, 193, RFr.) (INJ)  OR 

81 Sebastian Valerio (5-9, 182, So.)* 


32 Joel Whitford (6-3, 219, RFr.) OR

46 Race Porter (6-1, 177, RFr.)*

42 Van Soderberg (6-0, 193, RFr.) (INJ) 


43 Tristan Vizcaino (6-2, 206, Sr.)

42 Van Soderberg (6-0, 193, RFr.) (INJ) 

Punt Return

8 Dante Pettis (6-1, 188, Sr.)

12 Aaron Fuller (5-10, 198, So.)

Kick Return

6 Chico McClatcher (5-7, 179, So.)

4 Austin Joyner (5-10, 190, So.)


49 A.J. Carty (6-2, 231, RFr.)

78 Luke Lane (5-11, 215, RFr.)*


8 Dante Pettis (6-1, 188, Sr.)

11 K.J. Carta-Samuels (6-2, 219, Jr.)  OR

7 Tony Rodriguez (6-3, 185, Sr.)  OR

46 Race Porter (6-1, 177, RFr.)*

* = walk-on


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