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Counting down the Top 10 Huskies – No. 10

We’re now 10 days from the beginning of fall camp. And as a way of counting down the days, I figured I’d count down my list of the top 10 Huskies as the team enters camp — revealing one each day until practice begins.

This was not a scientific poll of a number of people or anything — just a quick list put together as I studied the roster again this week. And for this list, I didn’t include incoming freshmen.

I’m starting the countdown with place kicker Erik Folk, pictured at right in a Dean Rutz photo.

Kickers aren’t often at the top of such lists. But as coaches often say, the best way to understand the value of a kicker is in years when you don’t have a good one. In his two years as UW’s starter, Folk has begun to restore the school’s tradition for good kickers. He’s made 31-41 field goals in his career, a percentage of that 75.6 that is third in school history behind only Chuck Nelson (61-75, 81.3) and Jeff Jaeger (85-105, 81.0). He’s a perfect 68-68 on PATs, tied with Mike Lansford (who was 73-73 in 78-79) for career percentage in point afters.

He’s also made a number of big kicks, such as game-winners in the final seconds the last two years against USC (the picture is the beginning of the celebration after the winner against the Trojans last year).

Folk did tail off a little bit at the end of last season, hitting three of his last seven in the final four games to finish at 13-20 for the year. He said in the spring he was working on keeping his head down, saying he sometimes threw off his form by looking up too quickly.

He also said in the spring he was working on increasing the distance on his kickoffs. He had just two touchbacks last season while UW’s opponents had 15 (though five were by Nebraska’s Alex Henery who was taken in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Eagles). And interestingly, Folk’s average kickoff distance of 63 yards wasn’t much off that of UW’s opponents of 63.7.

Assuming he can regain the field goal consistency of 2009 and the first half of last season, and add a little distance on the kickoffs, Folk will be among the better kickers in the Pac-12, if not the country. And in a season when UW seems destined to again play a few nailbiters, that’s a valuable commodity.