Hold Up!

Mountaineer fans in attendance at Saturday's football win over Cincinnati were undoubtedly surprised when number 17 trotted onto the field for WVU's first placekick hold.

The mystery man was George Shehl, a redshirt freshman walk-on defensive back from Robert C. Byrd High School in Clarksburg, West Virginia.

Shehl earned the holding duty with his steady performance in practice and the preference of starting placekicker Todd James. But despite countless repetitions on the practice field, there were some nerves to combat during his first college outing.

"I was a little bit nervous the first time out," Shehl said after the game. "Coming into the week, I wondered what I would think about the first time I went out there. But once I got on the field, everything just kind of disappeared, and it was just like practice.

"It's like being a position player -- after that first hit the nerves settle down. So after that first kick was good, all the nerves went away."

"I've been working as a holder all season, and I was a holder in high school, so when A.J. went down I thought I might have to hold. I didn't think too much about it.

Like any good student, Shehl watches other holders as well as his teammates to pick up information and techniques. He says that like many other tasks, repetition is the key to being a good holder.

"I watch other holders and our holders. Holding is a lot about repetition. The more you see and the more you hold, the better you get."

Shehl had to totally revamp his holding style when he made the jump from high school to college, which was a difficult task.

"In high school I was on my left knee and held the ball with my right hand. In college, I had to transfer it over. Now I am on my right knee and hold with my left hand.

"And every kicker has their differences," Shehl added. "Todd (James) likes it leaned over a little bit toward me, where Casey (Welch) likes it straight up and down."

It's an article of faith that the biggest difference for kickers in high school and college is the absence of the kicking tee. Shehl notes, however, that the removal of the block also affect holders.

"The big difference and the hardest part is that in high school you are kicking off the block," Shehl explained. "You just catch the ball and put it down on the block. In college, you have to hit a spot. If you are off an inch any way, it can cause a missed kick."

Fortunately for the Mountianeers, Shehl stepped in for the injured A.J. Nastasi and provided a steady presence in this critical, yet often unnoticed, aspect of the kicking game.

Shehl figures to see action again next week against East Carolina. Although Mountaineer head coach Rich Rodriguez noted that Nastasi might be available for holding duty, it seems doubtful that Rodriguez would use Nastasi until he is healthy enough to play and provide a running threat.

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