New and Improved

While much attention has been focused on placekicker Pat McAfee in preseason camp, another young booter of the ball has been performing well as West Virginia prepares for the 2006 football season.

Punter Scott Kozlowski, who came to WVU with similar credentials as McAfee (he was's #1 rated punter as a high school senior), is beginning to show why he achieved that lofty ranking. Kozlowski, like McAfee, worked at kicking camps during the first part of the summer rather than attending the first summer workout session at WVU. But while head coach Rich Rodriguez delivered a few verbal shots for that decision, Kozlowski believes the work he did at camp was beneficial in its own way.

"If I'm not here, the coaches don't see the commitment I have, even though I'm still working hard," he explained. "I missed that first session, but I did a lot of kicking at the Florida camps. I worked on my times and on the approach the coaches here wanted. My goals are to get the ball off in 1.9 seconds, and have 40-yard kicks with at least a 4.3 second hang time. I want to be consistent with those marks."

Kozlowski, who admittedly struggled during the initial stages of his first year in the WVU program, is in a much better groove now.

"I am feeling good now. It took me about a year or so to adjust to the one-step punt. Last year, I was taking two, or even 2 ½ steps to get the ball away. The coaches noted I had a little "giddyup" step that was making the approach even longer. I think I'm doing much better with that now."

The difference in Kozlowski after a year in the program is a striking one. Gone are the slightly hesitant approach and the downbeat demeanor, which is something many freshmen struggle through when things don't go exactly as planned. The 2006 version is much more confident, answering questions without pause and showing all the signs of being an excellent replacement for Sugar Bowl hero Phil Brady.

Kozlowski has also improved greatly on the roll punt, which was totally foreign to him before arriving at West Virginia.

"I have to focus a lot on my feet, and on the run-up," he said of WVU's unique fourth-down weapon. "I am feeling much more confident with it now."

Although Rodriguez harped on the missed time over the summer, Kozlowski did get several benefits from teaching and working at the camps.

"I taught about 75 punters, and they would have different drops and different techniques," he noted. "I would show them different things, but I also watched them. When I saw someone with more pop on the ball, I would try to pick up what they were doing to help myself."

Once Kozlowski returned to Morgantown, the difference in his performance was evident as well. Brady beat him out last year primarily because of his mastery of the roll punt, but that weakness appears to be gone from the West Palm Beach, Fla. native's game. Conventional punting is still is strength, which could lead to more straightaway kicks from WVU this year, but the roll punt is now another arrow in his quiver of boots.

Although he has received some in-camp competition from walk-on punter David Brewer, Kozlowski looks to have the inside track on the first-string job. And while Rodriguez might disagree, it's apparent that the work Kozlowski did in Florida over the summer has more than a little to do with his winning the job.

BlueGoldNews Top Stories