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Originally published Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 8:30 PM

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Huskies get first look at kicker Cameron Van Winkle | UW football

Freshman from Mount Si hits 6 of 8 field-goal tries as spring practice resumes

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Spotting the new guy among the 90 or so players at Washington's spring football practice on Tuesday morning was easy.

Cameron Van Winkle wore a squeaky clean white No. 48 jersey that practically screamed freshman kicker. There wasn't a speck of dirt on his uniform, which isn't to suggest he didn't work hard on his first day.

The newest member of the Huskies competed against senior incumbent Travis Coons in a series of field-goal attempts.

The 5-foot-10, 160-pounder from Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie is one of three freshman scholarship players who enrolled in school in January to participate in spring drills.

Van Winkle missed the first six workouts, but he drew plenty of attention when workouts resumed Tuesday on the east practice field behind renovated Husky Stadium.

He pushed his first attempt — a 27-yarder — left. He also missed from 37 before nailing a 42-yard attempt. Van Winkle finished the drill completing 6 of 8 attempts, while Coons was perfect from the same distances.

As first days go, the Huskies were relatively pleased with Van Winkle.

Associate head coach Johnny Nansen said Tuesday "was about getting him to feel at home. That's the first time he got a snap and hold.

"I guarantee you the next couple of days ... he's going to be a lot better than he was today."

Van Winkle began classes Monday, and the Huskies are slowly easing him into things. They want him to get comfortable with new holder Thomas Vincent, a sophomore defensive back and former walk-on quarterback.

Thursday's practice will be similar to Tuesday's. Saturday, UW players will wear pads and simulate a rush that will give the coaching staff more information about the new guy.

Coons handled the punting duty as well as all three aspects of the kicking game (kickoffs, field goals and point-after attempts). He made 7 of 11 field goals last season, UW's fewest since 1973.

The Huskies are hoping Van Winkle, who set the prep state record with 39 career field goals, can lighten Coons' workload.

"His kickoffs are tremendous," UW coach Steve Sarkisian said of Van Winkle. "With the new kickoff rules and the way they've moved the ball back up, we're hopeful with Cameron that he can put that ball in the end zone the majority of the time and minimize the number of kicks that we actually have to run down the field and defend."

However, Nansen stressed Van Winkle won't be given a job.

"In every aspect of our football team it's a competition," he said. "We're going to play the best guy. He knew that coming in, and the other kids knew that too.

"Just because Travis was here a year ago for us, this is a competition."

A good kicker could be the difference between a team finishing 9-4 — or 7-6, like Washington did last season.

The Huskies lost their last two games — 31-28 in overtime to Washington State and 28-26 to Boise State in the Maaco Bowl — by a field goal.

"It's everything," Nansen said of the importance of a good kicker. "It's very critical that you have that guy in place in your program if you want to take the next step."

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @percyallen

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