The play of the Huskies’ special teams was a mixed bag in 2012. The Dogs were solid in the return game, particularly with punt returns where their 14.2 yard average return was 5.7 yards/return more than the second best return team in the conference. They led the conference in kickoff coverage as well. Their field goal kicking was respectable, tying with UBC for the second best average in Canada West. But the Dogs really struggled for consistency, all season long, with punting. It’s an area the Huskies hope and expect to improve upon this fall. Special teams coordinator, Doug Humbert spoke with Huskie Outsider about what he hopes to see in 2012, beginning with the kicking game.
“Cole Samson is back, primarily as a placekicker,” Humbert stated. “He’s got a very strong leg. He had a good spring camp and he worked very hard in the off-season; he’s been in the weight room and he’s done the right things. He has also been working hard on his punting. Denton Kolodzinski did a nice job of punting in spring camp. He did a pretty good job of field goal kicking too. It’s his third year now, and I see a little more confidence in Denton. The biggest thing for these young guys is to be able to have that confidence to go into a game situation and produce. The third person that we’re bringing along is the redshirt freshman, Sean Stenger. Sean’s got the ability to placekick, handle the kickoffs, and be a good punter too. He needs to work on a few of the fundamentals, but I think he’ll be very good.” Stenger is also a receiver with the Huskies. If he were to crack the gameday roster, it would provide the coaches with some flexibility. “He’s done a good job as a receiver too,” Coach Humbert remarked. “I know that Coach Sulz is very happy with how he is progressing there. If Sean works hard in this off-season, and I think he will, his potential is unlimited.”
The situation in the return game is quite different. It’s not about finding the one guy to be consistently relied upon; it’s about having several dynamic returners to choose from, a situation Coach Humbert relishes. “We’ll have a healthy Luke Thiel back.” Thiel was second in conference in punt returns, averaging 12.0 yards/return last season. “Luke started last year off strong, but then broke his arm. He’s one of the premier return guys in the league. Kit Hillis will be back (8.8 yards/return in 2011). There’s also Jeff Moore, and Jerit Lambert is a great returner.” Lambert really emerged as a returner when Thiel was out with his injured arm. He led Canada West in punt return yardage with a gaudy 14.9 yards/return. He also had 7 kickoff returns for a 21.4 yard average. “Dexter Janke is good on kickoff returns as well. Keegan Arnyek, a new recruit, is another one who has a lot of potential – he’s done very well. You can never have too many of those return guys. You’ve got to stay healthy; near the end of the year we were down to only a couple of returners.” Coach Humbert was asked if the Huskie coaches are at all hesitant to use Dexter Janke in the return game this fall, and risk injury, considering that he will be the Huskies’ feature tailback. “I know that the offensive coaches are,” Humbert replied. “I hope that we get him for kickoff returns more than anything else, although he really wants to be on the kickoff team. He got on there a couple of times last year, and he’d be very good in that role as well. But we’ve got to be careful with that because he’s very important to the offence.”
While off-season feels like an eternity in CIS football, it is just over 2 months until fall camp begins. It will be interesting to watch the special teams, and particularly the kicking game, to see who emerges as the go-to guy in 2012.