It didn't get the fanfare that the battle for quarterback did, but the race to be Washington's placekicker was just as intense. And in the end...
It didn’t get the fanfare that the battle for quarterback did, but the race to be Washington’s placekicker was just as intense.
And in the end, the winner was the same man who won the battle a year ago — Evan Knudson.
Coach Tyrone Willingham said yesterday that Knudson, a senior, will handle placekicking and kickoff duties for UW’s opener against Air Force on Saturday. Knudson, a walk-on, beat two scholarship players for the spot — freshman Ryan Perkins and sophomore Michael Braunstein.
Perkins will be the backup at both kicker and punter, where Sean Douglas will be the starter.
Knudson made 7 of 10 field goals a year ago. He has made 17 of 27 in his career, also winning the job in surprising fashion in 2003 when Braunstein was expected by many to take over.
“He kicked better,” Willingham said of Knudson. “He was more consistent. It wasn’t just [training camp] — it was the spring and now. It was the whole body of work, as they say.”
Perkins’ status as the backup would seem to be bad news for Braunstein, who was awarded a scholarship by Rick Neuheisel in 2003 but hasn’t been able to win or hang on to the job when given a chance. He was 3 for 7 on field goals last year when he took over after Knudson faltered in the opener, but 0 for 4 outside of 29 yards.
UW vs. Air Force @
Qwest Field, 12:30 p.m., Ch. 4
Knudson and Perkins are each from North Thurston High in Lacey.
Willingham said he had no plan to redshirt Perkins, but that it could happen if he isn’t needed.
Paus stays ready
Even though most had figured for months he had no real shot at the starting quarterback job, Casey Paus insisted he thought he was in the running until told by Willingham on Tuesday that Stanback would start.
Paus started eight games a year ago, but the team’s 1-10 record and his numbers — a Pac-10-high 17 interceptions against five touchdowns — had suggested the team was going to look in another direction.
But he said he thought he had done all that the coaches had asked, including working on raising his throwing motion.
Paus will be the backup for the Air Force game, with Johnny DuRocher ineligible and Carl Bonnell likely unable to play due to injury.
“I’ve never been one to quit and I’m not about to quit now,” Paus said. “I’ll keep competing and preparing as if I was the starter.”
Paus will also be the holder on kicks and said he has been practicing on some other special teams, such as the punt team, and could see action there as well.
The latest on a few unsettled positions:
• Scott White will start at strongside linebacker, though sophomore Dan Howell is likely to see action.
• Sonny Shackelford will likely start ahead of Corey Williams at one receiver spot, with Anthony Russo as the other starter. But other receivers could start depending on the formation UW uses to begin the game.
• Tusi Sa’au has locked up the spot at right guard ahead of Clay Walker. The left guard spot remains up for grabs between Stanley Daniels and Tui Alailefaleula. Daniels ran with the first team in the portion of practice open to the media yesterday.
• Matt Fountaine has returned to practice but might not be ready to start at cornerback, meaning Chris Handy might start instead alongside Roy Lewis. Fountaine ran with the first team alongside Handy in the part of practice open to the media.
• TE Robert Lewis remains troubled by an ankle injury, and either Jared Bronson or Johnie Kirton could start instead.
• Donny Mateaki and Brandon Ala remain an either/or at one defensive end spot. Mateaki, who played primarily tackle last year before suffering a foot injury, has been moved to end, which coaches say is easier on his injury. Mateaki ran with the first team at practice.