Special Teams Preview

WV Sports Now

If anyone has listened to Dana Holgorsen talk about football in the last seven years, they've likely heard him stress the importance of "all three sides of the ball." Specials teams can be overlooked, but it has proven many times to be the difference between a winning and losing season. With Mark Scott returning as special teams coach, West Virginia's ST unit will try to build on the season it had last year.

Placekicker:

2017 Starter: Evan Staley
In the Mix: Skyler Simcox, Sam Trapuzzano

When Mike Molina suffered a serious injury halfway through last season, freshman kicker Evan Staley did his best to replace him. Staley had excellent accuracy hitting 6 of his 7 field goal attempts and all 16 of his extra point attempts. One area of concern with Staley is that his longest attempt was only from 36 yards. Staley has had the entire offseason to work on increasing his distance, but with WVU appearing to favor going for it on fourth down, he may not be called on for those longer attempts.

Although Staley played well last season, he should expect some competition, especially from incoming Western Kentucky transfer Skyler Simcox. Simcox has performed well for his previous teams and has already received a scholarship from WVU. Once he transferred from Emory & Henry to WKU, Simcox won the starting job where he converted 70-of-71 extra point attempts and made 16 of his 22 field goal attempts. Two of those were 50-yarders.

If Staley does struggle when called on for those long attempts, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Simcox given the opportunity.

Punter:

2017 Starter: Billy Kinney
In the Mix: Luke Hogan, Angus Davies

Kinney, a fifth-year senior, will likely continue his punting duties for the Mountaineers this season. Kinney punted 70 times last year, averaging 40.9 yards per punt, with a long of 58. He had four touchbacks and 22 punts inside the 20 yard line.

The Mountaineers do have several backups on the roster, including incoming Australian punter Angus Davies. There were some concerns about securing eligibility in time, but Davies is expected to be on campus for WVU’s fall camp. While it may take Davies some time to adapt to collegiate football, Australian punter’s have been performing well over the last several seasons and he should provide Kinney with some healthy competition.

Kickoff:

2017 Starter: Evan Staley
In the Mix: Skyler Simcox, Sam Trapuzzano

Staley handled kickoff duties for WVU in 2017 and performed well. He averaged 58.9 yards over his 77 attempts, with 27 touchbacks.

Kick Return:

2017 Starter: Marcus Simms
Backups: Gary Jennings, Tevin Bush

Simms performed exceptionally well as a returner specialist for the Mountaineers. Simms had 816 return yards on 31 attempts, and while he was unable to return one for a touchdown, he did well at setting up the Mountaineers with good field position and finished 13th nationally in return yardage. Jennings and Henry are also expected to get a chance at kickoff return.

Punt Return:

2017 Starter: Marcus Simms
In the Mix: David Sills, Tevin Bush

While Simms did well as a kick off returner, his performance on punt returns was most welcome, especially given WVU’s struggles in the past few seasons. His 99 yards on 17 attempts were good enough for 36th in the nation. With his kickoff and punt return combined, he ranked fifth in the country in total return yardage. Sills is also expected to see the field on punt return this year, as he did last year when the Mountaineers had two returners on the field.

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