West Virginia Gets Backups Set In Kicking Game

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. - Mike Molina, once a backup, easily won the job of replacing Josh Lambert for West Virginia's first three games of the 2016 football season. He needs a backup of his own, though, and West Virginia assistant coach Mark Scott spent some of last week addressing that contingency, as well as beginning preparations for Missouri's special teams.

Molina, who handled all of WVU's first team kicking duties throughout fall camp, found himself a bit worn down by an excess of work as those practices neared an end. That's not uncommon for kickers across the land, who find themselves doing more booting in those 2-3 weeks than at any other time during the year. Thus, special teams coordinator Mark Scott killed two birds with one stone by giving Molina a day off in order to evaluate those behind him.

"That allowed Jonn Young to get more reps at the placekicker spot. We have to get a backup groomed for those first three games," Scott said.

The day off for Molina seemed to do him a world of good. Scott noted that in WVU's final scrimmage before school began, the redshirt junior was a perfect 10-10 on kicks. That mimics what was seen during open sessions of fall camp, when Molina routinely hit attempts despite a variety of distractions. Some of those extended to things he won't see in games, such as coaches standing behind him and yelling, or tossing towels or other gear in an attempt to distract him. He has responded to everything thrown at him, both literally and figuratively, leaving Scott confident in his ability to handle the job in September.


Young, who just arrived on campus a month ago, is still getting acclimated, but at this point it looks like he will be Molina's backup. The Davie, N.C., native has a strong leg, but missed the majority of his games as a senior last year with an injury. That has to leave Scott at least a bit nervous were he to have to call on Young -- thus the extended work for the freshman.

While Scott and the rest of the coaching staff have put as many challenges as possible on the kickers, one thinkg they haven't been able to work them in as yet is truly bad weather.


"We haven't had bad weather yet," Scott noted. "The one time we were going to have live kicks, we got rained out, and we went in the indoor facility and lost power in there. But it's a lot windier on the practice fields up there than in stadium, and we can do some wet ball stuff during practice and find different ways to throw elements at them."

In the video above, Scott details some of the challenges in preparing for opposing special teams in openers. Just like defensive coaches, special teams mentors must be prepared for just about anything, whether it's modifications of existing schemes or new ones that came on board with new coaches.

"We have to be sound in everything we do, and be ready to adjust on the fly. We have to focus on ourselves as much as anything," said Scott of the keys to first game preparation.

Among those Scott is eyeballing is Oklahoma transfer Alex Ross, who was a return standout for the Sooners last year. WVU held him to just one return for ten yards, but he had much better numbers in several other games, including a five-return, 170-yard effort against Oklahoma State that included a 90-yard score. Freshman All-American punter Corey Fatony is also on the radar after leading every other first year punterwith a 42.9 yard average in 2015. He also produced 18 touchbacks on 43 kickoff attempts.

"We are all to familiar with him," Scott said of Ross. "He's big and he has great speed."


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