WVU redshirt freshman Josh Lambert hit a 53-yarder that stands as the longest field goal in Garland High history.
MaxPreps.com
WVU redshirt freshman Josh Lambert hit a 53-yarder that stands as the longest field goal in Garland High history.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When West Virginia place-kicker Josh Lambert was a bony seventh-grader booming soccer balls in Texas, a phys-ed teacher suggested he try out for the football team.

It hardly felt like a career-defining moment.

“I didn’t really like football at the time,” Lambert recalled. “But I thought about it for a little while, and thought what the heck.

“I certainly didn’t ever think I would be here.”

WVU file photo

Josh Lambert signed with WVU over a walk-on invite at Texas A&M and a grayshirt offer from Louisiana Tech.

Six short years later, the WVU redshirt freshman is competing to replace Tyler Bitancurt, who departed as the school’s second-leading all-time scorer, and that competition appeared to have been decided when Dana Holgorsen opened fall camp proclaiming “Josh Lambert is our kicker.” Before Wednesday’s sixth practice, however, special-teams coach Joe DeForest wasn’t ready to pronounce Lambert the starter.

“He’s never kicked in a game before,” DeForest said, “and I think that says it all.”

Actually, that says it all about every place-kicker on West Virginia’s roster, none of whom has taken aim at the uprights in a college game. Yet DeForest’s reluctance to hand the job to anyone three weeks before the opener is understandable. There are too many days left for DeForest to stress-test his kickers by simulating “as violent and volatile a crowd as we can get.”

He does this by piping in clamor from the stadium speakers and having his guys attempt kicks with the team tightly gathered around them. It’s the equivalent of letting the student section encircle the free-throw shooter.

Lambert accepts the pressure.

“Everyone’s eyes are on you,” he said. “And if you miss you have to be able to bounce back.”

Once Lambert opened his junior season at Garland High with three 50-yard kicks in the first three games, he began to think “maybe I could do it in college.”

He received letters from several schools, including Oklahoma, but lamented that “letters don’t really mean a whole lot,” and they certainly don’t equate to scholarships. His major-college interest was limited to a grayshirt offer at Louisiana Tech and a walk-on invite at Texas A&M, making the prospects of a full ride at WVU sort of a no-brainer.

And what was his biggest adjustment during his first year on campus as an anonymous backup?

“The hills,” he said. “In Texas you can basically look in the distance and see where you’re going to end up driving. Then you come here and you can’t see around the corner.”

ARE KICKERS PLAYERS, TOO?
Not so long ago many college programs declined to allot scholarships to kickers, but DeForest said his philosophy changed when Florida State endured its series of “wide-right” misfires again Miami in the 1980s.

“What makes a kicker less important than a right guard?” he said. “Kickers put points on the board.”

After enduring a difficult one-year term as WVU’s defensive coordinator, DeForest remains associated head coach, but he spends practices completely devoted to special-teams. By his estimation, there are only 12 FBS programs in the country that have such a specialized coach.

“Most of the time you do special-teams period first and then you send the kickers off to another field with a bag of balls and say ‘Go kick.’ Would you do that with your corners or your receivers? No. Someone’s got to guide them, right?”

Longtime WVU beat writers still chortle over Don Nehlen’s kickers spending portions of practices shooting pool in the players lounge, and Lambert admitted such a mindset existed at Garland. However, the kid who has never kicked in a college game appreciates the extra set of eyes and the discipline DeForest provides.

LEG STRENGTH
Lambert said he feels consistent on field goals extending to 53 to 54 yards, “but if you go much past that, it’s hit-and-miss.”

And what about his max range for a last-second, desperation prayer? “Probably 59-60, but wind comes into play.”

Though Lambert’s leg is strong enough to handle kickoffs, DeForest would prefer that role be earned by a guy like Mike Molinari, the holder and backup punter.

“I’m thinking about not putting the extra workload on (Lambert) if he’s not going to be head and shoulders above anybody else,” DeForest said. “It’s a lot different leg swing, it’s a lot harder on your plant foot and it’s harder on your groin. That’s the most difficult and the most pounding your legs take.”

If Lambert does wind up kicking off, he’s not worried about the collisions involved in covering downfield.

“I’ve made a few tackles,” he said, “but I’ve also gotten blasted too.”

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Comments

  • Ragweed

    It's nice to hear something about the kicking game. Who will do the PATs?

    Maybe this team will surprise a lot of people. Everything we hear from the players is about team. They have a good attitude. Even if it isn't a great season, I believe we have a championship team in the making.

  • Mark

    In response to bobby m lambert was only telling the goals he set and what he hoped to do. I believe bobby m has reading comprehensive problems.

  • WVUDAD

    I am more concerned with a guy making the 35 yarders EVERY time than hitting the 55 yarders. The shorter ranges have been WVUs problem for years. Maybe Holgorsen is looking to have several kickers to have the guy who reliably makes the 30 yarders from any angle AND the guy who can hit the 50 yarder now and then. 2007 the sPitt game was lost due to McAfee missing a 20 yard field goal after the great INT return, He then missed a 32 yarder later in the first. IF that 20 yarder had been made.............

  • 1olewvufan

    Holgorsen must not be happy with the kickers and punters, for he just brought in a Kicker and he wants more Kickers and Punters. If Holgorsen was happy with the Kickers and Punters he has and the depth at these positions he wouldn't be looking for more.

    This helps us understand why Lambert didn't get a shot last season when the Kickers and Punters were doing so badly. Lambert isn't the guy, and if Holgorsen can find the guys he wants Lambert will be out. 53 - 55 yard field goals aren't anything when there are kickers making them from 64-yards and longer. If Lambert wants to Keep the Starting job then he needs to set his Goals higher and improve his consistency.

  • wvajoker

    @unclec

    Well said and 100% correct.

  • unclec

    I am glad WV has so many experts on the WV football program. How many of them have coaching experiance? Get behind the TEAM and support it if we win or loose or are they band wagon fans? Fly your WV colors if we win and hide thrm when we don't. Go eers.

  • richard

    some of these comments are just stupid. i read one comment 3 times thinking i was missing the point----nope-----it was just as stupid the 3rd time as it was the first. some of these jokers have no clue when it comes to football or coaching. just shut the hell up and save the space for comments that make sense.

    • Maxxajay

      100% right Richard

    • Big Larry

      Any time WVU scores more than 60 points and holds the other team below 60 points they almost always win.

  • BigBadJohnHenry

    Kicker and QB positions will have plenty in common. Both positions will be manned by a kid from Texas who had all but one Div. 1 scholarship offer. WVU. The two biggest positions to put points on the board, and WVU is going to start two guys that no other Div. 1 team wanted. Man, it going to be one loooooooooong season.

    • Wemakerain

      The point wasn't that Lambert didn't have other scholarships, it is that schools don't tie up a lot of money in kickers so you go where you get the shot

    • Jon

      I've said it once and I'll say it again. If anyone can predict what an 18 year old is going to be at 22, then you are special and missing out on a big fat paycheck somewhere. It's all a crapshoot.

    • chad

      The QB will not be from Texas

  • chad

    Deforest should just shut up and baby sit while the real coaches make the decisions. If Holgo says Lambert's the placekicker then Lambert's the placekicker

    • Protechcpa

      If Deforest has doubts about him, I would say he is an All American in the making.

  • cutty77

    I hope he is good from 45 yards in. Tyler Killed this Team last year. He first year was awesome,then after that he went down every year. Tyler makes to short Kicks,WVU beats The Sooners,and TCU. So i have no patience for Kickers.JUST DO YOUR JOB,MAKE WHAT YOUR SUPPOSED TO MAKE.

  • Bobby M

    I'm sorry but I dont like when kickers make guarantees on range like this. I think it sets them up for failure because they'll feel even MORE pressure when they kick it! What that will do his shatter his confidence going foward then we'll really be up the crick without a paddle! He should have lowered expectations and guaranteed 35-40 yards because no matter how short that sounds - if you have a kicker who is guaranteed to HIT it every time - thats stability and something you can depend on! Instant, automatic points every time!

    • Allan Taylor

      @BobbyM: Lambert didn't extend any guarantees — he merely responded to a question about the extent of his comfort range.

      • Bobby M

        I agree! But I think we all know what HE'S really saying! Its a non-guarantee guarantee!

  • Hilltopsandy

    Maybe he'll kick like Paul Woodside. It sounds like he has the distance.