August 1, 2006

Pre-camp analysis: Kick game becoming special

This is the latest of the preseason positional evaluations for the WVU football team. Camp begins Aug. 5. Today we look at special teams.


Perhaps the position where the most development has been made since Rich Rodriguez returned to his alma mater is the special teams.

Rod put Bill Stewart in the coordinator's position early during their days together, and save for some forgettable days at the tail end of the 2004 season, special teams has been solid. Last season, teams took off as more recruiting talent was added. They should continue this season.

Rodriguez and Stewart award T-shirts and photos in the Puskar Center to those special teams warriors weekly. Additional speed up and down the specials has lent to their credibility. Rookie kicker Pat McAfee was an outstanding kickoff man last season and new punter Scott Kozlowski's learning curve has been amped since he leads for the job.

Additionally, the staff has added invited walk-on kicker-punters from California and Ohio, respectively, who will push the just-turned-sun-blonde McAfee and Kozlowski throughout the year.

Most hang their hats on kickers/punters when evaluating teams play. McAfee came in last year with high-school acclaim, won the job in August and held on through the Sugar Bowl.

His leg strength is as impressive as anyone who has ever placed the ball for the Mountaineers. In practice, he knocks down 60-yard field goals and, distance-wise, can match Koz on punts.

Inconsistency marked the true freshman's first year in both areas (he punted in practice), yet he still hit 11-of-18 field goals with a long of 45 yards. He particularly seemed to have trouble from the right hash, a failing he is attempting to correct this summer.

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