New Husky coach Brian White aims to take special teams to new level
Brian White says reviving Washington's special teams will be more about attitude than scheme. And UW players say White — who replaced...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Brian White says reviving Washington's special teams will be more about attitude than scheme.
And UW players say White — who replaced the fired Bob Simmons as special-teams coach — has already gone a long way toward changing their outlook in a short period of time.
"The biggest thing I've noticed that's different and that I like a lot is just what he expects out of us," said fullback Luke Kravitz of White, who coached just his fourth practice with the team on Tuesday. "I feel like he expects so much more and demands a lot more ... Just that alone, I've already seen people working harder and trying harder and wanting to do better just by the level that he expects us to play at."
Special teams, traditionally a strength for the Huskies, has too often been a negative in recent seasons — hence the change in coaches. UW ranked fifth or lower last season in five of the six major special teams statistics kept by the Pac-10 — offset only by a league-leading punt-return unit.
White, who was an assistant at Wisconsin for 11 years and the offensive coordinator at Syracuse the last two years before being let go, was hired to take Simmons' place as both tight ends and special teams coach.
White says there will be some subtle strategical differences in how some things are done, but that he's looking mostly for increased want-to.
White notes that the special teams are the first unit on the field for every game — be it kickoff return or coverage.
"The first play of the game, our whole mentality has to be that we are going to create the crowd," he said. "There are going to be people here that are going to be looking and watching and feeling us out to see what the Huskies are all about."
The coverage units were a particular sore spot for the Huskies last season as they ranked ninth in kickoff coverage, allowing an average of 24.6 yards per return. UW was also sixth in net punting.
Just a week into his first spring practice, White says it's too early to say who will do what in just about any area, but he said he has gotten a good enough look at his personnel to say that talent won't be an issue.
"I believe that with the athletic ability that has shown itself to us so far that we will have plenty of capable parts," White said, adding it's possible the team will use more veterans on coverage units.
Also uncertain are the return units. Anthony Russo was third in the Pac-10 in punt return average last season but is gone, as is leading kick returner Louis Rankin. Young players such as receivers D'Andre Goodwin, Devin Aguilar and Anthony Boyles and cornerbacks Matt Mosley and Vonzell McDowell were given looks as punt returners during Saturday's scrimmage.
One of Washington's most experienced areas is its kickers. Punter Jared Ballman and kicker Ryan Perkins each return — each is the primary backup at the other spot. Also back is redshirt freshman Erik Folk, whom some thought might win the kicking job last season before he was waylaid by a back injury. Folk is healthy now. White says all the jobs are open, despite the incumbent status of Ballman and Perkins.
White has already caught the notice of observers for his energetic pacing around practice, usually wearing shorts. He says he feels lucky to be a coach, like it's "an extension of third-grade recess."
He said, "Recess was always my favorite period of grammar school, so to be able to continue it is good."
It's that, as much as anything, that may prove the ultimate difference in UW's special teams this season.
"I hope it's a departure [from the past]," he says of his hopes for the Huskies this season. "I hope there's a dramatic departure."
• There is no change in the status of J.R. Hasty and E.J. Savannah, who are not practicing with the team because of a failure to fulfill certain team responsibilities.
• There were no serious injuries through the first three practices. Safety Darin Harris (knee) and cornerback Jordan Murchison (ankle) were each injured in a scrimmage Saturday, but Willingham said they are day-to-day. Also out Tuesday were Aguilar (with an unknown injury) and walk-on WR Tony Chidiac (an undetermined foot injury).
• Harris' injury allowed for walk-on Tripper Johnson to get a lot of action in Saturday's scrimmage with the second unit and Willingham said he did an "excellent" job. Johnson, 25, is attempting to return to football after eight years playing minor league baseball.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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UPDATE - 10:18 PM
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