Getting the Boot

Lost in the disappointment of last week's loss to Virginia Tech was an outstanding performance by punter Phil Brady. In the face of Tech's vaunted punt block team, Brady made a technique change that yielded big dividends and gave the Mountaineers the edge in the punt game.

"We switched to a one-step technique," Brady said as he explained the change employed for the game. "It's just a quick one step, and get the kick away. We worked on that in practice all week, and Coach Stewart had us cut down the splits on the line too. We wanted to get the kick away in about 1.6 or 1.7 seconds. That was really all we did differently today. I just tried to get it down the field and help the coverage team out. I was pleased they didn't hurt us with a kick block, and they only had minimal returns. I am pleased with the way we controlled their return game, and we avoided the block."

Did those changes make a difference? Without question. Brady, despite employing an unfamiliar technique, averaged 43.8 yards on nine punts, and yielded just a little over seven yards per return. And more importantly, the Mountaineer punt team held potential Tech kick blockers at bay. The Hokies never seriously threatened a Brady punt in the contest, and the Mountaineers ended up with a net yardage advantage in that play phase.

While eliminating just one step from a punter's approach might seem like a small thing, it actually is a huge change. Think of golfers who make changes to their swings and start spraying the ball all over the course, and you get some idea of how even a small modification to a punter's normal technique could affect the kick. Brady, however, implemented the change in a hurry, and the results were spectacular.

"It's a little bit less comfortable to one step, because I haven't worked on it a lot," Brady observed. "You can still be pretty quick with a two step, and you get a little more momentum built up. With the one step you would think it would cut down on the distance the kick travels, but if you do everything fundamentally sound the ball will go just as far."

Brady's boots proved that, and his mastering of the new technique gives WVU another weapon to employ in the kicking game. The junior now has confidence that he can execute the one step technique under pressure, even if it isn't his favorite method of getting the ball away.

"It's Coach Stew's call, and I just go out and execute it to the best of my ability," Brady said of the possibility that the one-step will be used again this year. "I prefer the two step, because I get a little bit better rhythm, but if you need to sacrifice that for quicker times we'll do it. And it's better than having the ball go backwards."

Brady copes with the pressures of getting the ball away by not thinking about any negative results. In fact, he admits that he doesn't think about much at all.

"There's not a lot going through my head when I kick. I'm not thinking ‘Look at that guy on the end or this guy coming up the middle'. I don't think about those guys. I just try to stay focused and get the kick off as quickly as I can."

Brady has achieved that goal, and is having a good season overall, in spite of a couple of bad kicks earlier this year. In addition to not having a kick blocked, the Fairfax, Va. native is averaging 41.2 yards per boot. That, along with improved coverage from the rest of the punt team has contributed to WVU's solid 36.5-yard net punting average.

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