Favorite Comes Through

Placekicker Tyler Bitancurt felt "very fortunate" to get a scholarship offer from a school that has been a longtime favorite, so it didn't take him long to make his decision.

"I am just very fortunate to have gotten an offer from West Virginia," the Virginia native said after taking the Mountaineers up on their scholarship offer and giving them a verbal commitment. "West Virginia has always been one of my top choices. It just lets me know that they take every position seriously. I am glad that they picked me."

"I love the program, the games are incredible and the fans are great," Bitancurt continued. "They have the things there that will help me succeed."

Many of those "things" that Bitancurt refers to are on the academic side of the house.

"The thing I fell in love with in making my decision was the support for the education there," said Bitancurt, who plans to major in the education field with an eye toward coaching. "They will have tutors, and they take it very seriously. That is the number one thing for me."

Of course, Bitancurt knows that football will also be a big part of his collegiate career, so he was pleased to see the relationships that exist between everyone in the Mountaineer program.

"The team is like a big family," he said after making his official visit. "The coaches and the players are all together – just like a family."

The combination kicker/punter has long been a fan of West Virginia, and admitted that he hoped things would work out for him to be a Mountaineer. He attended West Virginia's spring football game two years ago, and his placekicking coach is none other than former Mountaineer booter Paul Woodside. While Woodside's presence certainly helped Bitancurt's performance, it didn't play a major factor in his choice of WVU.

"He didn't talk about West Virginia a lot," Bitancurt explained. "He lets his kickers decide what they want to do and go where they want to go I knew about his background, of course – he was a great kicker. But he didn't push me there. He let me make my decision."

Bitancurt also had the benefit of playing for former NFL punter, giving him two outstanding tutors to help him with both types of kicking

"My coach, Bill Renner, went to Virginia Tech and punted for Green Bay in the NFL," Bitancurt related. He knows punting, and is one of most knowledgeable guys there is. I am really blessed to have him in high school."

Like many kickers, Bitancurt started out playing soccer before being scooped into the football net.

"I grew up playing soccer, and I didn't start placekicking until I was a sophomore in high school," he said. "Placekicking was the first thing that I did. I had to learn kicking technique first. It is a lot different from kicking a soccer ball. There's a difference in the ball striking, and the shape of the ball comes into play too. Also, the hold has to be good, and the placement. There is a lot that is different. The main thing that connect both is the hip and leg strength."

As if learning all that wasn't enough, Bitancurt also had to learn the rudiments of punting.

"My high school needed me to punt, so I learned that too. I think I feel used to [doing both] now. I always expected to have to do both – it was just something I had to learn. I have always been expected to know both and to work on both as hard as I can."

Bitancurt has also shown attributes that will be required of him at West Virginia. He has already dabbled in WVU's roll punts, having practiced them at West Springfield, and features a two-step approach on conventional boots. He also placekicks without a tee – a rarity for a high schooler.

"I learned to kick from one of my teammates, Josh Czajkowski, who is at North Carolina State now," he explained. "He was practicing with an eye toward going to college, so I learned it off the ground. I did use a block for the first year and a half, but once I showed my coaches that I was just as good off the ground, they trusted me to do it.

"I have seen the roll punts and have started working on that, on getting the steps down," he continued. You have to get used to hitting the ball on that type of punt. The ball striking is different than on a straight on punt. But I feel that if I work on it I can be successful. We have practiced it some, although we didn't use it in a game, but I am working on it now."

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