WVU Notebook: Special Teams, Mock Week Wraps
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There is a new rule on kickoffs this season, another rule brought about to add a safety measure to what many believe to be the most dangerous play in football.
That rule is that the returning team can call a fair catch inside the 25-yard line and, rather than taking the ball where they make the catch, it will be treated like a touchback with the ball placed out at the 25.
That should discourage returns from inside the 10-yard line on high kicks that are well covered.
The new rule is the latest in a series of changes in recent years. Before the 2012 season, kickoffs were moved from the 30 to the 35-yard line, which produced more touchbacks, and at the same time moved the receiving team’s starting position on a touchback from the 20 to the 25-yard line.
The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved altering football’s kickoff rules to allow the receiving team to fair catch the kick inside the 25-yard line and have it result in a touchback.
This is how WVU will approach this, according to special teams assistant Mark Scott.
“It’s going to be a little bit of trial by fire here, but we’re just trying to put our guys in as many situations where they have to make decisions,” Scott said. “A lot of it depends on where they kick it and based on what our call is. We coach our guys up on what to do in those certain situations.
“In terms of pooch kicks, you may see them a little bit deeper to put them in situations where they have to make decisions. We’ve done that, literally, every day that we’ve done kickoff return,” he continued.
“We’re spraying the ball all over the place to get the entire back-end as many reps as we can, by putting them in situations where they have to make a decision. I’m not sure if anyone fully knows how this thing is going to work, but you have a little bit of an out based on where the ball’s kicked versus what the return call is or who the ball is kicked to.
“You have a little bit of an out with the fair catch rule moving the ball up to the 25. In terms of where we put our guys, we have to look at what the return call is and if they kick it here, then you fair catch it.”
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Here’s a name you haven’t heard much of but which you probably ought to hang on to and the nice thing is, it’s an easy name to remember.
James is a freshman receiver out of Richmond Hill, Ga., for whom he caught 53 passes for 917 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior, averaging 17.1 yards per catch.
But it isn’t as a receiver that he could make a quick impact.
WVU is thinking of using him on kick returns “because of his speed,” according to coach Mark Scott.
At 6-foot, 165 pounds he has the body of a return man. He comes to WVU as the Georgia 6A state champion in the 400 meters with a 47.72 timing as a junior. In addition to that, James has run the school’s fastest 200 meters at 21.83 also as a junior.
With him, Marcus Simms, another speedster, and the elusive Alec Sinkfield, an elusive running back, to pick from, WVU seems to be in good shape on kickoff returns.
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West Virginia is just completing its mock game week, which is a week devoted to practicing how game week will go in another week.
That runs from practices to meals to interviews to all routines so the players can approach the opener against Tennessee with their minds set on what it should be.
“It’s really important, especially for guys that are new — transfers, guys that hadn’t played last year or guys that haven’t played college football before,” said quarterback Will Grier.
“It just teaches you how to practice, how to prepare and how a week will look. That way, when you get to game week, you’re rolling and you understand what’s going on, and you can just focus on being the best you can be out there.”
It’s something Coach Dana Holgorsen believes in.
“We’ll teach them how we do things on Thursday, and we’ll travel on Friday,” he said. “We have a lot of new guys that haven’t experienced how we do things on a travel Friday and a game day situation on Saturday.
“So, we’ll get a lot of work done when it comes to the logistics when it comes to those three days.”