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Spring position preview: Specialists

WSU kicker Andrew Furney (49) hit a 51-yard field goal against Cal as the Cougars' regular kicker and has taken on an additional role this season with kickoffs.     (Christopher Anderson)
WSU kicker Andrew Furney (49) hit a 51-yard field goal against Cal as the Cougars' regular kicker and has taken on an additional role this season with kickoffs. (Christopher Anderson)

COUGARS

FROM PULLMAN -- Our position previews conclude with a quick look at WSU's specialists.

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The players: (kickers) juniors Andrew Furney, Michael Bowlin, redshirt freshman Tyler McNannay, (long-snappers) redshirt senior Zach Koepp, redshirt sophomore Ryan Saparto, sophomore Alex Den Bleyker

The outlook: I'm not going to try to project who might return kicks, because WSU lost its main returner, Isiah Barton, to graduation. But the Cougars do return some players with experience in that category in running backs Marcus Mason and Rickey Galvin. Leon Brooks was the only player to return a punt last year, and he's back. The kicking job should be a competition between Furney and Bowlin, a JC transfer who began his career at Oregon and is reputed for his strong leg. WSU is currently without a punter. Dan Wagner handled those duties last season.

The gist: I imagine quite a few players will get a look at kick returner. Furney was solid on field goals (14-16) and extra points (39-41) last season, but his kickoffs could have been better. Bowlin could push to take over those duties. There will also be a little more strategy involved in the kicking game this year, with kickoffs moved up to the 35-yard line and touchbacks moved to the 25. It might not be particularly beneficial to just  kick the ball through the end zone anymore, so special teams coach Eric Russell has some tinkering to do to figure out how he wants to approach that change. Finding someone to punt is important, too.

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple




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