With Austin gone for a second year, the coaching staff has had time to fix the apparent problems on special teams, and one player has emerged as a front runner for both punt and kickoff returns. Wide receiver Jordan Thompson is entering his third year in the system and feels like he is ready to take on the challenge.
“We had coaching evaluations after last season, and (head coach Dana Holgorsen) told me one of the areas to improve is being a punt returner,” Thompson said. “I need to be credible catching the punt, and looking to break big plays.”
Thompson came to WVU with excitement surrounding him, and so far has only produced a total of 85 return yards, while struggling at times to maintain the same receiving output as he has during spring and fall camps. But the senior is ready for a breakout season, as even Holgorsen is speaking highly of Thompson.
“We trust Jordan back there,” the head coach noted. “He looks really good in practice, so he might be turning a corner into a guy who could be making some big plays.”
Thompson said he has studied Austin’s punt and kick returns to understand what moves to make and when.
“I do watch punt returns, I notice the cuts he makes, and his vision so I can get a feel of his juke moves and where to go depending on the blocking.”
Thompson seemed very eager to make some big plays during the interview, and said since his first camp as a Mountaineer his maturation as a player has risen. This year the entire team has made an emphasis on special teams.
“Everybody is taking special teams serious,” said Thompson. “Special teams is key, and often overlooked.”
Thompson made note of last year when Auburn’s Chris Davis returned a last second field goal for a touchdown to win the Iron Bowl against rival Alabama, and how Florida State, in the National Championship against Auburn, took a kickoff return for a touchdown. Florida State won that game 34 to 31.
Special teams coach, Joe DeForest, below, notes Thompson is ready to make a big impact after working hard in all facets of his game.
“He wants the punt return job, he realized we weren’t very good at it,” DeForest said. “Jordan said put it on my shoulder, I want to do it. Let’s get better.”
It is that kind of eagerness that the coaching staff says they need in the return game. And although Thompson is at the top to be a part of the return game, Holgorsen says it will still be a competition going into the season. Speedy sophomore Mario Alford and redshirt sophomore Vernon Davis are also in the mix.