Travis Coons has not exactly been showered with admiration during his time as a Husky kicker and punter. Last season, during which he handle punting, placekicking, and kick-offs, Coons was very clearly a jack of all trades and a master of none. Most fans likely think of Coons mostly as the kicker that missed a game-sealing field goal in the Apple Cup loss last November. He also missed a potential game-sealing kick in the Vegas Bowl.
Criticism of Coons has often been unfairly harsh given the unreasonable workload he was given. He does not have the leg strength to kick particularly long field goals, but he was 4/6 on attempts from 40-49 yards. If Coons had taken care of business against WSU and Boise State and missed two less important field goals in different games, overall opinion of him would be drastically different. Of course, in reality he did miss, and that means he earned the super-subjective title of “not clutch.” It’s the sort of title that kickers have to carry with them until they’ve done something “clutch” enough to shake the monkey off their back.
During the off season true freshman Cameron Van Winkle was expected to compete with Coons for the kicking job. Coons held him off, and has taken care of both field goal kicking and punting. Meanwhile Van Winkle of the bigger leg has handled kick offs (and done a fantastic job so far).
Coons keeping the starting punting and kicking spots was only mildly surprising. How well Coons has played so far this year, especially in the bad-weather win over Arizona, has been much more of a short-term revelation. He is 4/4 on field goals so far, with the one attempt over 40 yards coming last week. Nothing spectacular over such a small sample size, but a clear statement that the rough end to last year hasn’t shaken the senior’s confidence.
Most of all it has been his punting that should alter the way fans view Coons. Against Arizona, in the previously mentioned downpour, Coons punted five times. He pinned the Wildcats inside their own 20 on all five occasions. In a game that stayed within two scores for most of three quarters despite the decisive final tally, Coons won Washington the massively important battle for field position.
Coons isn’t going to boom a lot of 60-yard punts, but if he can continue to pin opponents consistently, his value to the Huskies is very, very high, especially if he also continues to hit his field goals. Fans may not fully embrace Coons as a kicker until he hits a field goal in a big, game-deciding moment (therefore shaking the not clutch title), but for now he is a surprisingly large contributor to Washington’s 4-0 start, and his precision punting will likely need to continue for Washington to win at Stanford against such a physically dominant football team.