The upcoming season for the Washington State Cougars is shaping up to be the start of the future.
It’s head coach Mike Leach’s third year with the team, and so the players he has recruited are pumping through the program. However, that also means that players who were in the program already are starting to leave, and one of those players is a Cougar favorite and a vital asset to the team.
Kicker Andrew Furney played his final year with the team last season, and is now part of the New York Jets' organization. Now, the Cougars need to replace him, and that might be one of the hardest things the team must do.
The Cougars will miss Furney’s personality in the locker room, but also his accuracy on the field. During his time at WSU, Furney sent 47-of-61 field goal attempts through the uprights, which equates to a 77 percent success rate. He made extra points look routine, hitting 97 percent of his kicks in that category.
His totals last season ranked him in the middle of the Pac-12 Conference, so while he wasn’t the best, he also wasn’t the worst. He also was in the middle of the conference in terms of how many field goals he kicked in each game. He made an average of 1.23 field goals per game last season, and nobody in the conference had an average higher than two.
Furney was a necessary part of the offense, and the Cougars will need someone with a powerful leg to help them if they cannot get all the way down the field. They also cannot afford to miss extra points. Furney gave them that reliability, and finding someone who is at least good enough to finish in the middle of the conference statistically is no easy task.
The current option seems to be Erik Powell, a redshirt freshman who walked on last season. He has no college game experience, so that might be an issue, especially in terms of dealing with the pressure of playing for the first time and also replacing a Cougar legend. After all, Furney did kick a field goal to send the 2012 Apple Cup into overtime, and he kicked another one to win it.
Powell will have those expectations on his mind, and if the Cougars are in close games, he will need to cash in for them.
Listed as a kicker and a punter on the spring roster, Powell figures to get plenty of playing time now, which is every player’s dream. Yet, a lot is riding on his longevity with the program. If he proves he is accurate and reliable from both short and long range, Powell has a bright future. If he shows otherwise, he could be switched to another position or worse, let go from the team. That decision will likely be made as soon as this year because the Cougars do figure to be competitive in most of the games on their schedule.
A lot is being asked of Powell, and the Cougars have to hope he is the right man to answer those questions.