By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
@Normal:SEATTLE — Last Saturday night, Quinton Richardson brought the fans at Husky Stadium to their feet with a long kickoff return touchdown in the University of Washington’s final scrimmage of fall camp.
One week from today, Richardson hopes to have a similar effect on the Husky faithful.
“I’m looking forward to setting the tone on that first kickoff,” he said, referring to UW’s season opener against LSU one week from today.
Richardson, a sophomore starting cornerback for the Huskies, has certainly backed up his words so far this fall. He returned kickoffs for touchdowns in each of UW’s two intrasquad scrimmages.
Richardson and fellow kickoff return man Jordan Polk, also a sophomore, are hoping for similar results when the real season begins.
“It’s always a goal,” said Polk, a 5-foot-9 wide receiver from Portland. “I’ve never gotten a touchdown.”
Of course, wanting to score a touchdown and actually scoring a touchdown are two totally different sensations. The Huskies haven’t scored a kick return touchdown since Louis Rankin went 89 yards with the opening kickoff of the 2007 Apple Cup.
Polk’s longest return as a freshman went for 38 yards; Richardson took one 52 yards. But both sophomores claim to be much better players than they were as freshmen.
“Last year, I ran timid,” Polk said. “I didn’t know what to expect. Now I know what to expect. I know when to hit that hole and when to cut out.”
Richardson said that his running lanes have been bigger in scrimmages than they were last season, and he’s hoping for the same when the real bullets fly.
“I’ve had good blockers up front, and I’ve just been trying to run behind the blocks,” Richardson said of his two touchdowns in intrasquad scrimmages this fall. “And luckily, I’ve seen holes.”
While the Huskies have their top three return men back from last year’s team — Richardson, Polk and punt returner Devin Aguilar — the team does have some fresh blood in new special teams coach Johnny Nansen. The former Idaho assistant is excited about the potential of UW’s return game.
“I feel really good about it,” Nansen said. “We put so much stress on our special teams and what we’re trying to accomplish. Right now, I’m very happy with the return game.”
Nansen brought a nickname with him from a previous stop at Idaho, dubbing his special teams units The Wild Bunch. The players have taken to the nickname, which advertises a more energetic attitude.
“They’re taking pride in it,” Nansen said. “It’s something you introduce, and they’re running with it. They’re having fun with it.”
Polk, who is hoping to see extensive action at wide receiver this season after being used exclusively as a return man last season, is approaching his role as a special teamer with just as much zest as any other.
“It’s a big role,” Polk said. “If you return a kick back on the opening drive, it’s a momentum changer. Q and myself, we feel like we can make a big impact on kick returns and can give our offense good field position to score.”
The Huskies are hoping for that kind of effect from their return game as soon as next week.
“That’s the whole plan: to open up the game and set the tone for our offense and the whole football team,” Nansen said. “You never know. It’s always nice when you open up the game with a long one.”
Said Richardson: “It’s the one time when I actually get to have the ball, so when I have it, I’m going to try and score with it.”