Coach Sark clarified after practice today that senior kicker Travis Coons has won the field goal kicking competition and will handle FG duties during the season. He had been competing throughout fall camp with true freshman Cameron Van Winkle of Snoqualmie, WA.
Coons, originally a transfer from Mount San Antonio Community College in California, handled field goals for Washington last season. He also took care of kickoffs and the majority of punting after the first few weeks of the season. While his versatility was commendable, his field goal kicking was mediocre. He finished the year 9 of 14 total, but he missed potentially game-sealing field goals in the Apple Cup and Vegas Bowl losses and his field goal range was limited. He was also only average as a kick-off specialist and punter. He could certainly improve his field goal kicking with another year of college football under his belt. It also stands to reason that he would improve fairly significantly if allowed to focus on kicking field goals rather than handling all three special teams roles.
Van Winkle was one of the most heralded kicking recruits of the Class of 2013, and I was optimistic that he would simply step right in and take over for Coons. Apparently he isn’t ready, though he is still the most obvious candidate to take over for Coons in 2014. Van Winkle will, however, take over as a kick-off specialist starting this year. Coons and sophomore punter Korey Durkee are still competing at punter, which means that Coons may still handle both the punting and field goal duties for a second straight year. I have no clue whether Durkee or Coons is likely to win that battle.
While none of this is necessarily bad news, it does highlight that special teams remains a question for Washington, and that will not change unless one of these players steps up in the regular season.