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WVU Football Report Card: A Perfect Kicker Mixed with Coverage Issues on Special Teams

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Football is not just about offense and defense. Like it or not, the specials teams phase of a team can have an impact in wins and losses.

After grading both the offense and defense 
through the first 4 games, it’s only right to evaluate the kicking and return game too.

Here’s the report card for the Mountaineer special teams unit as the team sits at 2-2 (0-1 Big 12) and prepare to travel to Austin, Texas for a Big 12 matchup with the Longhorns.

Kicker: A

Casey Legg hasn’t missed. He’s a perfect 8 for 8 for field goals and has converted 17 out of 17 extra points. His longest field goal is a 38-yarder. He probably won’t miss (unless this jinxed him). He’s been, and continues to be, one of the best kickers in the country, especially for a former soccer player.

Parker Grothaus has missed one extra point to ruin a perfect season as a group, but it was during a blowout win over Towson so it didn’t really matter.

Punting: B

When a team hands the punting duties to an Australian kicker, it could go one of two ways – be really cool and work out or be a train wreck. And for the most part, Oliver Straw has been perfectly fine so far. He has an average of 39.9 yards per punt with a 48-yard bomb against Pitt being his longest to this point. Straw has shown signs of having a boom stick for a leg, but a below 40 average and a short punt in his only attempt of the game in a loss to Kansas can’t allow an A grade.

Kickoff Coverage: C

No matter what happens the rest of the season, I’m not sure if Neal Brown will ever get over allowing Towson to return a kickoff for a touchdown. He kept bringing it up and how mad he was about in his postgame press conference after a 65-7 win. That’s right, his team won 65-7 and Brown was furious over one kickoff return. Brown kept mentioning how much the team works on kickoff and punt return coverage and has put an emphasis on improving in this area this season. He’s even mentioned this again in media sessions since. Nothing that’s truly negatively impacted the team has happened thanks to an opponent returning a kick, but if the head coach is constantly saying it’s a problem, you gotta believe him.

I’m going C, but Brown would likely be tougher and give a D or worse, just for the Towson return alone.

Return: B

WVU is averaging just over 15 yards on kickoff returns while opponents are gaining 22 yards against them. That’s a field position problem and advantage the Mountaineers are giving other teams, granted that’s about coverage issues.

As far as punt returns, an average of 8.17 isn’t bad at all. The return game hasn’t broke one, but that doesn’t mean is failing either. Fortunately for WVU, the offense has shown the ability to complete long drives no matter where they are forced to start with the ball.

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Mike Asti is an experienced media personality and journalist with a vast résumé and skillset, most notably with TribLIVE Radio, WPXI and 93.7 The Fan. Asti now serves as the Managing Editor of WV Sports Now, manages and serves as the lead host for Pittsburgh Sports Live and contributes to Steelers Now, Pittsburgh Sports Now and Nittany Sports Now. He also contributes to West Virginia's Metro News among other outlets.

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