Technical Attention

WVU's newest scholarship player is a technician of his craft.

From his first day on WVU's campus Brad Cooper has drawn attention to himself with his booming kicks, which climb with the attack angle of an F15 fighter. No matter the surface, Cooper's kicks get up quickly, and are nearly impossible to block, given even adequate protection.

Cooper's consistency seems to be one of his strongest attributes, which got us wondering. How do kickers adjust from surface to surface? From the grass patches of Miami and East Carolina through the old style artificial surfaces at Boston College and Syracuse to the ultramodern AstoPlay at West Virginia, Cooper and his fellow kickers will face a wide variety of fields.

"Probably the biggest adjustment you make is the type of shoe you wear," Cooper explained. "On grass, you're going to want something that gives you a little bit firmer plant with your foot. On old turf, we're going to use a traditional turf shoe. That's about the only difference.

"You don't change your leg action," Cooper went on. "You want to keep that the same on every kick. You might see a little bit more of the ball on turf than you do on grass, but that's the only difference."

That difference in ball position makes a big difference, because kickers are trying to hit the ball in the same spot every time. The ball will naturally sit up higher on an old style artificial surface, while it nestles down to the ground more on natural grass.

Give that fact, it might seem that Cooper's favorite surface would be the old style rugs, but he says that's not the case.

"Actually the AstoPlay is really nice. The ball sits up like it does on the old artifical turf, but it's more of a grass feel, so it feels better when you plant your foot on it. I like this turf a lot."

On the flip side of that equation are natural grass fields, which present the biggest differences.

"There's a couple field where the grass is pretty thick, and that's the toughest," Cooper said. "You can't see the spot on the ball that you're trying to kick, and that makes it tough to focus on the ball. That's why you go out the day before and try to get the feel of it."

Although he's only in his first playing season after sitting out a year as a transfer from Middle Tennessee State, Cooper has already taken on something of a mentor role for freshman Andy Good.

"I think the older and more mature Andy gets, he'll be able to push me," Cooper said. "We have a good relationship going where we talk to each other and compare things, and I think we're going to work well together."

Cooper, who worked ast several kicking camps this summer, believes he has become more proficient at spotting mechanical flaws, but tries to hold back when talking with his teammates.

"I kind of catch myself sometimes telling him things, and I try not to coach anyone up too much, but if he asks me, I'll tell him," Cooper said of his role as an elder teammate. "We try to help him each other as much as we can."

Cooper isn't complacent about his own work, either. He's always looking for a way to improve, as evidenced by the cut down kickoff tee he carried into a recent lunch.

"My dad just sent me this new tee that he cut down. I'm going to try it out this week. I've been kicking pretty well off the two inch tee, but he cut this one down to about 1 1/2 inches. It might help me hit the sweet spot a little better, so I'm going to try it out."

So, the clock is ticking down. Ten seconds to go, WVU trails Wisconsin by two, ball on the 29 yard line, fourth down and six. What's going through Cooper's mind?

"Just kick it like you usually do," the calm junior analyzed. " No pressure, just kick it and put it through. Jeff Hall, a former kicker at the University of Tennessee, once told me that you can never lose the game, you can only win it. You're either behind, or ahead, or tied when you go out there. The game has already been won or lost when you go out there. So just kick it."


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