West Virginia With All Eyes On Special Teams In Spring

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Former special teams coach Mark Scott, currently working with West Virginia's linebackers, has always been as forthcoming and expressive as any assistant. Here, we take a look at a recent question-and-answer session as Scott delves deeply into the development of multiple players - and what he expects from punt and kickoff return, as well as the leg strength of Mike Molina.

Question: What has it been like getting ideas from multiple new coaches, with every member of the staff working with special teams?

Mark Scott: "The one thing I think it really helps promote is just more conversation, more people bringing different ideas. We have people coming in from different places who have done things in different ways. It stimulates conversation. This is how we did it, this is what worked for us, these were our problems. And we can really look at that and dissect that along with what we have had success with and what fits our personnel what we want to do moving forward. We are keeping some things the same and trying to tweak other things. A lot of drill work, a lot of base fundamentals on what we want to teach. Then we will continue to evolve that into more specific scheme stuff as we get into the summer and into fall camp."

Q: Regarding the return game, who is returning punts and who is returning kicks?

Scott: "We will take a look at Gary (Jennings), Jevon (Durante), Marcus Simms has been back there. Tevin Bush is extremely dynamic with the ball in his hands. We have Gary back there (for punts) and he's smart, he makes great decisions, he is a bigger body. Look at some of the backs, whether it is (Justin) Crawford, (Martell) Pettaway, some of those guys back there on kickoff return. Punt return is really the receivers and we have worked Tevin back there as well. As we go punt, we are not doing anything full coverage right now.

"Coach (Tony Gibson) is back there. He is throwing bags at them, shiver balls at them. Make a guy miss and get up the field. We are progressing there. We are as deep as we have ever been in terms of having guys we feel pretty confident with who can make decisions, catch the ball and now hopefully we can get some return yardage with it."

Q: What's the biggest challenge in turning those aspects into return yardage?

Scott: "I don't think it is on the returner as much as it is the other 10 guys on the field. Changing up our looks, changing up some of our techniques in what we are doing. It's easy to sit back and say our punt returner's average was this, and he didn't do this or that. But if he has four or five guys that are right on top of him when he catches the ball, he is not going to have a chance. So we have to do a better job with those other 10 guys - what their technique is and how to execute their technique to give whoever is back there a chance."

Q: The biggest challenges last year with Jonn Young were primarily control as opposed to leg strength. How has he been able to hone in on (better control?)

Scott: "Coming out of high school, very talented in terms of leg strength. But he had never really been put through a weight program. It was more about flexibility, it was more about live kicking (then). The biggest thing is over a 15-week season, you have got to be able to get stronger and be more durable and not slow down (progressions). That's been big for him, having almost a full year now in our weight program and maintaining his flexibility and getting his core and leg stronger so he can be more consistent throughout the course of the season."

Q: In terms of the placekicking position, what would you like to see through the end of spring?

Scott: "Mike (Molina) is our guy. I think last year going through, he wore down a little bit as the season went on with having both duties with kickoff and placekicking. And if you have a bad kick, we don't want that to translate and carry over on kickoff to when he goes to field goals.. So we have taken kickoff completely off of him for this spring. Kinda having an open competition with Jonn and Evan (Staley, a redshirt freshman from Romney, W.Va.) and we will evaluate through the end of spring where we stand. We are going to open that competition and it is going be the same thing in the fall. We will have new guys coming in and we will reevaluate what we have and what we are comfortable with and come up with more of a set depth chart coming into fall camp. Right now, it's getting those guys as many reps (as possible) and getting them on film and being able to chart those guys and see where we are with Jonn and Evan and then make a decision with that moving forward."

Q: Is Mike (Molina's) distance right what what it will be, or can he still continue to increase that?

Scott: "I think from a distance standpoint his leg is about as strong as anybody we have had. It's being able to, with his approach and his technique and his steps, being consistent. If he is kicking a field goal from 35, he doesn't need to change if it's from 45 to 50. He needs to take the same swing. He doesn't need to over-swing. He doesn't need to make up for anything. He has a strong enough leg. I've seen him in pre-practice kick them from 55. The leg is there; it's just being consistent with his approach and with his fundamentals to make sure he gives himself a chance with those kicks."

Q: Do you find that with a lot of kickers, they see the distance and that factors in more than the technique?

Scott: "Yeah. And again, it's more mental than it is anything else. In pre-practice, the last thing those guys do is they will put it back to 50, 52 yards and kick it through the uprights. Now, you throw all 22 people out there and you have just got to drown that out and go through your progression and do the same thing."

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