Double Duty

After getting a brief taste of kicking off for West Virginia in the East Carolina game, redshirt freshman kicker Tyler Bitancurt got some more game time experience beyond his usual field goal kicking when he took over the duties against South Florida.

"[Kicking off] at USF, I was pretty pumped," admitted Bitancurt, who said in the preseason that he believed he could handle both placekicking and kickoff duties. "My parents were there and my best friends were there. They go to school in Florida so they made the trip. It was on live TV. I couldn't ask for more. I felt comfortable out there. After the game, I was thinking and it kind of surprised me how comfortable I was out there. That's good."

After kicking off just one other time in a game, Bitancurt did not have much time to think about his new job as he headed out on the field to perform. As a matter of fact, he had just a minute or two to prepare for his second kick off of his collegiate career. Coach Stewart approached the redshirted freshman about kicking off as he was running off of the field following his first field goal of the game.

"It was a lot of fun," said Bitancurt. "Coach Stew asked me if I felt comfortable kicking off and doing what he asked, like kicking a certain direction and certain distance. I said, ‘Yeah, I feel comfortable. I tried my hardest and wanted to show him that I want to do it." Bitancurt took to his new duty like a seasoned veteran as he boomed his first kick off over 70 yards into the end zone for a touch back. His second attempt had impressive hang time which allowed his team to make it down the field in coverage, limiting USF to just a 14-yard return. His final kickoff was much the same, as the Bulls again managed just 14 yards on their runback.

With his impressive kicks against USF, it seems as though Bitancurt will be considered as a contender for the starting kickoff job along with senior kicker Josh Lider. Although Bitancurt isn't sure whether he will be getting the start this Saturday against Louisville, he admits that he has been practicing kick offs more to prepare for the possibility. Head coach Bill Stewart said that the kickers will be evaluated this week, with the decision to be made a day or so before the game.

"I haven't really been talked to or approached about it yet so to be honest I don't know [who will be starting at kickoff]," admitted Bitancurt. "All I know is I will be ready if they ask me. I would [practice kick offs] every now and then, but definitely not as much as I would have if I was the starting kicker. I've been practicing much more now, instead of just once a week like I had been."

Despite now practicing two duties, Bitancurt recognizes that he must pay special attention to his leg to make sure that he doesn't over exert it by working at both positions.

"I can only practice kicking so much without running down my leg," said Bitancurt. "I'll have to start doing less field goal reps now that I'm practicing kick offs, but I'm confident that I can control it and I'll be ready when they need me again."

Although they are now seemingly in competition for the starting job with kick offs, Bitancurt insists that he has been working with Lider on kick offs rather than competing with the senior kicker.

"Before the USF game, I had been watching [Lider's] techniques and been giving him pointers and stuff," said Bitancurt. "I was giving him ideas of how I do it. We usually kick off together and we help each other and coach each other. It's not like a rivalry -- it's more supportive."

With his success so far in placekicking (just one field goal miss this year) and his good performance kicking off against USF, Bitancurt is well on his way to a very successful freshman season.

So far, I feel pretty happy about how well my special teams [work] has went," said Bitancurt. "I couldn't ask for more than having Jeremy Kash and Cody Nutter perform as well as they are. All of the field goals I have made I obviously couldn't do without them. It's been great so far and I hope we finish the season strong."

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