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Originally published Monday, September 6, 2010 at 7:07 PM

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Huskies to add a 2nd deep man on kickoff returns | UW football

When it comes to receiving kickoffs, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian has decided two return men are better than one.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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When it comes to receiving kickoffs, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian has decided two is better than one.

In the most notable change after Saturday's 23-17 loss at Brigham Young, Sarkisian said Monday the team will change its kickoff-return scheme, putting two players deep to receive.

Chris Polk, serving as the lone returner against BYU, struggled to come up with the ball twice, leaving UW stuck at its own 2 and 7.

"We are going with two guys who are going to be back together, so we don't have the opportunities when guys shank kickoffs or mis-kick kickoffs where the one guy back there has to be the one fielding the ball," Sarkisian said. "We'll have two guys back there to hopefully combat that kind of stuff."

Sarkisian said Polk will remain one of the returners, along with a true freshman — either Jesse Callier or possibly Kevin Smith.

The two plays were symbolic of a game when the Huskies were beaten badly in the special-teams department, which contributed heavily to poor field position throughout — UW's average drive start was its own 16.

Washington also gave BYU two points when a high punt snap resulted in a safety, and kept a BYU drive alive with a roughing-the-kicker penalty.

Sarkisian found those errors more excusable.

The punt snap was the first for junior Brendan Lopez, a former walk-on from Bellevue High who is taking over for the graduated Danny Morovick, who handled all snapping duties the last four years.

"I thought Brendan Lopez settled down after that," he said. "I thought it showed a lot of mental toughness to have, because the very next punt we have is out of our own end zone and he's perfect, and was perfect from then on. So I think that one has kind of fixed itself."

The roughing penalty was on true freshman Greg Ducre on a play when the Huskies had a formation in to try to block the punt.

"Greg Ducre, the ball goes through his hands," Sarkisian said. "We had a block called, he's right there, and the poor kid he has it blocked and it goes through his hands and he ends up roughing the punter."

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Sarkisian said the only real remedy is "to continually teach our block technique."

That can be tricky in practice, though, as teams generally don't go completely live on special teams because of the risk of injury.

"Kickoff return, to simulate the speed, I think, is challenging," Sarkisian he said. "When they've got their best guys running down there covering kickoffs I think is something that is challenging to get that speed for our blockers. We need to do that. We need to give our guys full-speed looks on our kickoff return. Plus we are changing our scheme, which I think should help us as well."

The Huskies also had a number of true freshmen, such as Ducre, on the special-teams unit, all of whom were obviously seeing their first college action. Sarkisian, though, said the time true freshmen get on special teams will increase.

"They are going to play more," Sarkisian said. "Those guys are athletes. What showed up was, when we didn't have those blunders, we can run with people now. We can sustain blocks. We're going to be a better punt-return team. We'll be a better punt-block team. We're going to be a better kickoff-return team, as well. I don't second-guess or I don't regret playing those kids at all. They are good football players. They are going to play more for us."

NOTES

• Sarkisian said the team suffered no new injuries that would impact playing time this week against Syracuse. Receiver James Johnson missed the BYU game with a sprained ankle but could be back.

• Sarkisian said there are no changes to the lineup planned, but said he would like to try to get touted true freshman offensive linemen Erik Kohler, a left tackle, and Colin Porter, a right guard, into the game. Sarkisian again lamented the team's inability to pick up a number of short-yardage situations and said communication on the line was largely to blame more than being physically outmanned.

Brett Hundley, a highly-rated QB prospect from Chandler, Ariz., who had taken two unofficial visits and had narrowed his choices to UW and UCLA, announced Monday he will sign with the Bruins. UW is still without a QB for the Class of 2010.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

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