Quality depth is a key ingredient for great special teams play. As our depth improves the level of special teams will improve. Last season we did see improvement in many area's for a change, but that improvement was not enough to save Coach Bob Simmons his job.
Let's start with the good stuff. Ryan Perkins did a fine job kicking the ball while Jared Ballman emerged as the best punter Washington has had in many years. Ballman's strength was not overkicking his coverage, and getting great hang time. Look for Kevin Folk who has the strongest leg on the team to at least take over kickoff duties in the Fall. Those extra five to ten yards in the air on kickoffs can really help the coverage teams.
Ryan Perkins can't be confused with Chuck Nelson, but he did put the ball through the uprights almost every time he was asked. Danny Morovick snapped the ball with precision all year, plus a year of strength allowed him not to get bullied as much at the line of scrimmage.
On the negative side were Washington's coverage, and return teams. They were mediocre to below average last season. This is where depth comes in to play. When you have tired players filling these positions you often get very tired results. The UCLA game was a prime example of that. Gassed players don't make good plays! UW should be better depth wise next season so expect significant improvement over the next couple of years as the team matures.
Louis Rankin was the only return threat the Huskies had last year after Brandon Johnson, and Curtis Shaw fumbled away opportunities to take the job. As far as punt returns go Anthony Russo was the designated guy but he didn't make anyone think of the ghost of Ray Horton. Washington needs to introduce the pressure that they have the ability to score when they return punts, and kickoffs. UW needs to find some guys that can return the ball this Spring and Fall.
When you look for return men you pick your fastest guys with the best hands. Shaw, Johnson, Goodwin, Freeman, Glenn come to mind to name a few.
Coverage has been terrible enough that we all hold our breaths everytime the ball is kicked. Hopefully the position coach will be able to convince these guys to stay in position. I think it is another area that can improve with increased depth. The more kids you can put out there that aren't gassed the better.
UW will have a new defensive coordinator, running back coach, and special teams/tight end coach in 2008. You are going to find out pretty quick if it was the coaching, or the talent in 2007.
Ed Donatell is a guy you can get really excited about. He has great experience, and he is up to date with stopping the pass attacks of the NFL which should translate well to the Pac Ten. As of this date Washington still has not named a TE/ST coach. Most people feel whoever they hire it will be a huge improvement over Bob Simmons.
The key to Spring is finding out who is going to return the football. It will be an open audition, and it should be interesting to see who they come up with. I would love to see excitement return to the punt return aspect of the game.