Huskies add some new kicks

SEATTLE - For the past few years, the number 17 in yellow was always worn by Sean Douglas when the Washington Huskies practiced. The strapping 6-foot-2, 230-pound punter from Nebraska could always been seen with ease from even where the Tyees normally sit. Well, number 17 in yellow is still back out there, but Douglas has morphed into a 5-foot-10, 190-pound kicker named Erik Folk.

And Folk isn't the only new kicker to find a spot on Washington's 2007 roster. In fact, the Huskies have gone from one scholarship kicker this winter to three, and two walk-ons were also invited. And they need the numbers.

In talking to the new kickers on Monday - Folk, Cory Rutkowski from Sun Valley, Idaho and Kiel (pronounced Kyle) Rasp from Nathan Hale High School - it became clear that this group might be just a little different. Different in their backgrounds, in their experience and in their approach. They factored in the idea that both the punting and kicking spots were open for grabs this fall, something that has never happened at the same time under a Tyrone Willingham-coached team - but it wasn't the overriding thought.

"I picked it based on whether I'd be happy or not," Folk told Dawgman.com. Folk, rated by Scout.com as the 8th-best kicker in the country, has come in specifically to take the place vacated by Ohio transfer Mike Braunstein. "The rest was just a bonus. I just loved it up here (on my visit)."

Rutkowski didn't have the same impression the first time around. "At first I didn't like it, but then I started to walk around campus and it's a beautiful campus," he said. "And then I talked to some people that went there, and that helped too." But he was bent on making sure he got out of the Sawtooths. "I wanted to get out of Idaho, experience new things," he added.

Conversely, Rasp - who has been wondering around campus since he was nine, admitted that he recruited Washington and wanted to stay home for his college experience. "I had a partial scholarship from Western (Washington) and a walk-on offer from Boise State, but I wanted to stay here," he said.

Rutkowski and Rasp walked-on as much because of their inexperience as well as their vast potential - Rutkowski for kicking and Rasp for punting. Rutkowski only started kicking his senior year, belting 50-yarders last year for Wood River High School, and Rasp picked up the game as a sophomore at Nathan Hale. "I didn't start envisioning it (kicking in college) until my junior year. I only started playing football as a sophomore and I didn't know if I had any potential. But once I saw that I had potential I wanted to go to U-Dub."

Neither Rutkowski nor Rasp have a famous brother like Erik Folk has. Well, relatively famous, anyway. His older brother Nick punted and kicked for Arizona, earning All-Pac-10 mention for his punting this past season. "It doesn't happen much anymore," Folk said about the comparisons. "Nick's a lot taller than me."

One thing all the new kickers shared without question was their love for kicking in Husky Stadium.

"Really, really big," Rutkowski said with a grin on his face. "It was really cool seeing all the new facilities too."

"I was amazed by it," added Folk. "I was imagining the stadium being full, all noisy."

When asked about the possibility of maybe getting either the starting kicking or punting nod at Syracuse, all three did their best to not let themselves get ahead of the game.

"I try not to (think about it)," Rutkowski said, clearly still a little overcome by the proximity of the thought. "It's too much to think about."

Rasp was a little more excited by the challenge, but he still tried to keep things in check. "I don't stop and think about it," he said. "I'm a pretty humble person. I'm going to take it as it comes. I'm going to be really excited if I do. I really want to do it. I set a main goal. Right now my main goal is to start for U-Dub."

With a resume that includes All-State honors, as well as two years straight of a 42 yards-per-kick average (46.1 average as a junior), Kiel Rasp just might seriously challenge juco transfer Jared Ballman for the spot this fall.

And for the kickers? If Ryan Perkins' right leg can re-emerge as a force to be reckoned with, the competition between him, Erik Folk and Cory Rutkowski could be something to behold.


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