Making the Most of a Second Chance

The loss of Pat McAfee had many observes concerned about the state of West Virginia's placekicking and punting in 2009. However, the Mountaineer kicking game has started off the 2009 season strongly, with redshirt freshman Tyler Bitancurt and senior punter Scott Kozlowski kicking the ball flawlessly.

Kozlowski, who is getting a long-awaited second chance at the punting job, has responded in outstanding fashion. In the season opener against Liberty, he had a 47.5 yard punting average. In the second game against East Carolina, Kozlowski's average rose to 48.2 yards. After receiving praise from Coach Stewart, Kozlowski admits he has been pleased with his performance thus far.

"I feel pretty good with how I have performed in the games," admitted Kozlowski. "I feel like the biggest thing that I need to focus on now, is just to get a little more hang [time]. I feel like on that second punt against [East Carolina] when the guy broke through a couple of our guys and got around, if it had a little more of a hang on it they would have gotten down there and gotten it. That's my main focus right now is to get more hang especially with big time SEC opponents."

Despite the praise that Kozlowski has received as of late, Mountaineer fans and former coaches have not always been so complimentary of the West Palm Beach, Fla. native. As a redshirt freshman, a punt against Louisville caused Kozlowski to be benched for the remainder of the season – and the ensuing two years as well.

"It's a rough position," admitted Kozlowski. "It's a crucial position too because [punters] are only important while we are doing good. If you mess up, everyone puts the blame on you. That's why you have to make every opportunity count when you get out there. Unlike other positions, you may have one bad punt and it could be your last punt of the night or you may not punt again until the fourth quarter. You just have to make the best of your situation."

Kozlowski could have transferred, or gone into a funk. But just like Jarrett Brown (albeit because of different circumstances), he stuck it out at West Virginia. During his time on the sidelines, he was able to break down every aspect of his art. While that wasn't his preferred method of improvement he acknowledges that he has become a better punter because of it.

"I feel like I'm being more focused on the punts rather than just going through the motions," said Kozlowski. "I have been kicking the ball, getting it off. I watch every little thing as slowly as possible. My drop, my leg swing, getting through the ball, the angle that I am at. That's our biggest thing, you don't want to punt the ball down the middle of the field. You want to get the right angle."

As he realized in that pivotal game against Louisville, the angle of a punt can change everything.

"I've been taught since I got here five years ago, they want the ball angled every time," said Kozlowski. "In the middle of the field, that gives the return guy both sides of the field, whichever one he wants to be free. If he's in the middle of the field, he has 28 yards to work with on one side and 28 yards on the other." Like many members of the senior class, Kozlowski has one year in the spot light to prove himself as a Mountaineer. Just like Brown, he's off to a great start – and if he continues, he could wind up following McAfee to the NFL. Wouldn't that be a kick?

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