Huskies have two solid punters, but just one job
One of the most interesting position battles for the Huskies is between punters Kiel Rasp and Will Mahan.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Punter may be the least exciting position on a football field.
But for the Washington Huskies this fall, it could yield one of the most interesting of position battles, between Kiel Rasp and Will Mahan.
Not that anyone seems sure yet how a victor will be decided.
"Actually, I've been meaning to ask the coaches how that is going to happen," Mahan said with a laugh this week.
Mahan, though, is mostly just happy he's back in the running.
Mahan was UW's punter in 2009 and averaged 40.6 yards per kick in his first year after coming to Washington as a transfer from Bakersfield (Calif.) Community College.
He was off to a nice start last season, averaging 45.6 yards in the higher confines at Brigham Young before tearing the ACL and MCL in his left leg, the one he plants with, during a practice the week before the second game against Syracuse.
Mahan said a defender rolled into him.
"He just lost his footing," he said. "Just an unfortunate accident. But it's football. It's a contact sport. Injuries are going to happen like that."
While Mahan sat out, Rasp — a walk-on from Nathan Hale — took over and became one of the surprises of the season, averaging a school-record 43.76 yards per attempt, which was 23rd in the nation.
Now, both are back as fifth-year seniors, meaning more than likely one will win the job while the other sits, though Sarkisian didn't rule out he could find a way to use both.
"I'm still trying to wrack that in my brain right now," Sarkisian. "I don't know if anyone has carried two punters, but we'll see."
He says neither is making the decision any easier through the first week of camp.
"I'm hoping one starts shanking a couple of them," Sarkisian said. "They are both bombing the ball right now. They are cranking it. We don't need to rush (a decision). They are both experienced, and they've both played a lot of football. Hopefully, when it's all said and done, they both get their opportunities."
Mahan initially won the job due in part to getting the ball off more quickly as no one ever doubted the leg strength of Rasp.
But Rasp, who rejoined the team in fall camp last year when another walk-on left, proved quickness wasn't a problem, getting all 60 of his punts off last season. He even threw a 30-yard pass to Jermaine Kearse on a fake punt in the Apple Cup.
Mahan could do nothing but watch.
"It sucked not being able to play," he said. "But I'm just happy that he stepped up and was able to perform the way he did and help out the team."
Easing the pain was, well, the easing of the pain in his knee. The recovery progressed as planned and he says he's now 100 percent, feeling no difference in how he punts.
Eventually, the coaches will have to decide whom to use for the first punt of the year. Mahan, though, says he's trying not to think about the competition, feeling fortunate just to have another chance.
"A few things I've learned from this is just focus more on making sure that I take every punt serious," he said. "Kind of like the idea that every play is your last chance, the last time to perform. Because shoot, you never know. I was fine one day and then got rolled up on the next."
Huskies get physical
Washington put on full pads for the first time on Friday, and while Sarkisian said the team's pad level needs to improve, he also said there was a lot to like.
"It's as physical as we've been, in my opinion," he said. "We've got more explosive body types in there, even our young guys. They may not be right all the time, and I don't expect them to be. But just our ability to come off the football on both sides of the ball is evident to me. We are snapping off the ball and striking better than we have in the past."
Typifying the physical play was a hit by junior cornerback Desmond Trufant on freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins as Trufant caught up to Seferian-Jenkins and knocked the ball out.
"Welcome to college football, right?" said Sarkisian of Seferian-Jenkins.
• Sarkisian said there will be no additional penalties for running back Johri Fogerson, who pleaded guilty in May to resisting arrest.
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