We continue our positional preview countdown to the opening of fall camp with a look at the Huskies' special teams. Redshirt freshman walk-on kicker Peyton Henry climbed to the top of the depth chart in the spring.
The Washington Huskies, entering a season in which they are the heavy favorite to win the Pac-12 championship, open fall camp on Friday as they begin in earnest preparations for their much-anticipated season opener against Auburn. Today, we resume our fall-camp position preview series with a look at special teams.
Peyton Henry, rs-fr., 5-11, 191*
Van Soderberg, so., 6-0, 198
Sebastian Valerio, jr., 5-10, 176*
Joel Whitford, jr., 6-3, 224
Race Porter, so., 6-1, 178*
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A.J. Carty, jr., 6-2, 251
Luke Lane, so., 6-0, 209*
Aaron Fuller, 5-10, 190
Byron Murphy, 5-11, 185
Salvon Ahmed, 5-11, 191
Sean McGrew, 5-7, 174
Dylan Williams, K, fr., 5-8, 151
OUTLOOK: Dante Pettis and his electric punt returns are gone, and kicker Tristan Vizcaino has graduated too. Back is 25-year-old junior Joel Whitford for his second season as the Huskies’ Aussie Rules punter. Whitford had a strong season in his first year with the Huskies, who ranked among the best punt-coverage teams in the Pac-12 while allowing just 11 returns (for 58 total yards) in 13 games. Perhaps the biggest question mark on the entire roster remains the kicking game. Peyton Henry, a left-footed redshirt freshman walk-on, impressed in the spring and would appear to enter fall camp ahead of sophomore Van Soderberg, junior Sebastian Valerio and incoming freshman Dylan Williams.
STAR WATCH: As a true freshman, Salvon Ahmed led the Huskies in kickoff returns last season (averaging a respectable 25.2 yards on his 14 returns, with a long of 82), and with his speed and explosiveness he could be primed for a breakthrough in that role.
KEY STAT: 0
In four seasons under Chris Petersen‘s watch, the Huskies have not allowed a special-teams return touchdown. Over that same period, the Huskies have themselves scored 13 touchdowns on special teams (Pettis’ NCAA-record nine punt-return TDs; John Ross’ four kick-return TDs; and Keishawn Bierria’s onside-kick return vs. Arizona State in 2016).
BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Junior receiver Aaron Fuller, the backup punt returner the past two seasons, could not have had a better mentor while serving as Pettis’ understudy. Fuller is now first in line to take over as the primary punt returner, the one position on the team that Petersen coaches personally. Byron Murphy and Andre Baccellia, among others, will push Fuller in that role.