Kicking game looks familiar for Huskies

April 7, 2005

The only personnel difference for Washington's kicking game going into the 2005 season is the coaching staff. All three players who saw action at the punting, placekicking and kickoff positions are back for the Huskies.

The old faces are Sean Douglas, Michael Braunstein and Evan Knudson. The trio combined to perform all of the Huskies' kicking duties in 2004. The new faces are special teams coach Bob Simmons and graduated assistant Joey Hildbold, a former punter at Notre Dame before joining Tyrone Willingham's staff this year.

One of the biggest changes the new coaches have made is to involve everyone in spring practices more to keep them active and engaged for the duration of the practice.

'From the kicker's point of view we're a lot more involved in practice,' explained Douglas, a junior from Bellevue, Neb. 'They have us doing tackling drills in groups. We're doing more drills that involve us with the team and then for the team it's a lot more active.'

When the kicking game takes center stage during practices, emphasis has been put on creating game-like situations for the players, which Simmons feels will be very beneficial come Fall.

'Competition brings out the best,' said Simmons. 'We really want to continue that competition before coach names one guy over the other. Just like anything else, we're trying to stick to our fundamentals and trying to figure out who our guys are going to be come fall.'

The players have responded well so far to the high pressure simulations and seem to enjoy Simmons' style of coaching.

'He's a fun guy to be around,' said Douglas. 'He's really enthusiastic about everything. That's one thing that he stressed on the first day, to be enthusiastic for the team.'

While Simmons is focused on all of the special teams, Hildbold has worked exclusively with the kickers to help refine their kicks.

'He's helped me a lot so far with punting,' said Knudson, a senior from Lacey, Wash. who is participating in punting, placekicking and kickoff drills.'He'll come over and point out things that I need to change or tweak or work on. It has already helped because I feel more consistent.'

With an extra year of experience for all of UW's kickers, Washington should have a reliable unit heading into the 2005 season.

Noting the Huskies

Thursday was Washington's sixth practice of the spring. The team will take Friday off before returning to Husky Stadium Saturday. A luncheon of former players with the current team will take place following Saturday's practice.

Washington coach Tyrone Willingham announced that senior linebacker Joe Lobendahn will miss contact-related drills for one to two weeks due to an injury. Junior linebacker Scott White is also sidelined this week due to the flu. He also said that junior quarterback Isaiah Stanback has been limited and out of most of the team drills. Willingham said that Herb Hartso, a sophomore linebacker from Tacoma, has left the team.

Willingham said that redshirt freshman tailback Johnny Kirton has been tried at both fullback and tailback this spring.

Developing an Attitude

'It is the manner in which we play the game,' says Willingham on trying to mold the team's attitude. 'It has got to be played hard. It has to be played physical. It has to be played with a great deal of hustle. Those are the things that are important to us. As we look at our overall team on both sides of the ball, we've got to see that. Regardless of whether we are learning a new system and some of the mental mistakes that come with it, we have to play the game with a certain intensity.'

On the Young Linebackers Taking Advantage of More Practice Time

'I don't know if we've seen it, but the opportunity is there. What they have to do ... I consider most things mixed blessings ... It would be nice for those guys, Scott and Joe to be there, but at the same time, what it provides is an opportunity for the next guys. Now what they have to do is take advantage of the situation. Now they're really counted on. At any point next year that could happen.'

Position Changes

'There are some we are thinking about, but none we've really acted on at this time,' Willingham said. 'We may be a couple of days away from that. I don't think we've had an honest opportunity to look at all of the guys in all of the places right now and the positions they are at. Until we do that and kind of make a decision, then I don't think you do much moving unless you can already establish that before you start. In those cases that position change did take place, it was as much the young men coming and saying they wanted to do something different.'