Snap Decision

It's no secret that most members of special teams often go unrecognized for their efforts. While kickers and punters do get a bit of notoriety, the blockers and other specialists on the team usually get none, unless a major problem occurs on their watch.

Given the choice, most players would probably opt for another position – one with the chance of more notice – but West Virginia's Cody Nutter chose the less publicized role of long snapper over the position of tight end that he came to Morgantown to play. After two seasons with the Mountaineers where Nutter split his practices between tight end and long snapper, the Parkersburg, W.Va., native decided to focus solely on the latter, the position that he thought would get him onto the field faster.

That choice didn't earn him any headlines, other than the occasional local interest story from his hometown newspaper, but it has worked out well for him. Nutter gained the starting long snapper position as a redshirt sophomore last season, and has been a dependable performer ever since.

Even though he's been a part of some big plays, including the deciding field goal in West Virginia's win over Pitt last fall, he hasn't been in the limelight much. Those shadows did lift a bit last week, though, when he earned the special teams player of the week award from the Mountaineer coaching staff for his play against USF. Nutter was fairly laid back in discussing the notice – "It was pretty cool, it always feels good to get that award." – but he becomes more descriptive when discussing some of the duties the position entails. While it may seem as though his job on the field is a simple one, it extends much further than just getting the ball into the hands of the holder or to the punter. He is also looked at as a blocker and a tackler on special teams plays.

"[I'm looking to] block on field goals and being in the coverage lanes on punts," said Nutter. "I look to maybe be the first one down the field and getting in there on tackles and punts. A big highlight for me would be getting down and making a good tackle."

Nutter's spot in the middle of the field, plus his primary duty of making sure the ball gets on its way cleanly and preventing a free rush up the middle, often makes tackling a secondary concern. However, he's a member of the coverage unit that has to get downfield, and if he doesn't he'd leave a gap that could be exploited by opposing return teams. Therefore, he, along with holder Jeremy Kash, go through the same conditioning program that the team's linebackers do.

"Sometimes [Kash and I] do a little extra work up there," said Nutter. "Sometimes we will have a guy catch a punt and I will run down and have us try to make a move or something and try to stay in front of him. We just do things of that nature."

Nutter and the rest of the specialists often do their own thing during the team's practices. After the team goes through their warm-ups and the special teams periods are completed, they often leave for the team's indoor practice facility where they work on snapping, holding and kicking.

"[At practice] we will do a warm up," explained Nutter. "We're usually the first on the field. We throw a little bit and loosen our arms up a little bit and then we start snapping then we go through the field goal and punt period on a normal day. After that, we go up to the indoor facility and we will work on snaps up there until practice is over."

As the season approaches the midway point of the season, players and coaches are evaluating their performances, and the specialist group is no different. While the kicking game got some unwanted attention for allowing blocked field goals at Marshall and LSU, Nutter has been pleased with the kicking unit's progression overall, as well as the performance of senior punter Gregg Pugnetti.

"I think special teams have been going okay," said Nutter. "They have been going really smoothly, especially punting. I feel a lot better this year. I think Gregg is doing a great job. He gets the ball off really well and gets good height on it. Field goal seems pretty solid as well. It was a little rough there in the beginning with the two blocks but I think we have corrected our mistakes."


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