MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Today continues a position-by-position examination of where the West Virginia football team stands after spring practice.
The eight-day video series scours the two-deep as the Mountaineers glimpse ahead to the 2014 season, Dana Holgorsen’s fourth at the helm.
Tuesday, April 15
Wednesday, April 16
Thursday, April 17
Friday, April 18
Special teams: Aiming to be really special in 2014
Monday, April 21
Offensive line: Are the Mountaineers vulnerable up front?
Tuesday, April 22
Receivers: Can they get their swagger back?
Wednesday, April 23
Running backs: Is this the best unit in the Big 12?
Thursday, April 24
Quarterbacks: Can any of the current QBs win eight games?
After Josh Lambert’s 53-yard spring game kick carried through the uprights with more than 10 yards to spare, some wide-eyed onlookers checked the stadium flags. But Lambert credited yoga, not wind, for the increased range.
“I’ve been doing (yoga) for the past three or four weeks, and I’ve been hitting better balls now than I’ve ever hit in my life,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot stronger and the yoga helped a lot. It’s made me more flexible.’’
The yoga suggestion originated from strength and conditioning coach Mike Joseph, and it has spread beyond the specialists to include other skill position players like Daikiel Shorts.
While making 17-of-23 field goals as a redshirt freshman, Lambert was 16-of-18 inside 50 and just 1-of-6 from beyond. With yoga helping his leg swing, and experience teaching him to cut down on pregame reps that used to sap his power, Lambert hopes to be more comfortable and accurate from long-range.
“I would go out there and kick until I felt I was warm, then I went and took reps that actually mattered,” he said. “But I really didn’t need to take as many reps as I took to get warm. So I’ve cut it down a lot and made everything I do count.”
Projected starters: Lambert (5-11, 210, redshirt sophomore) could make some preseason All-Big 12 teams at place kicker. Nick O’Toole (6-3, 215, junior) also built a reputation by averaging 44.1 yards per punt, while pinning 22 kicks inside the 20 against only five touchbacks. Long snapper John DePalma (6-5, 240, junior) returns, bringing continuity to a position that flourishes in anonymity.
Mario Alford (5-8, 174, senior) showed his knack for returning kicks on a 98-yarder in the Blue-Gold game, while Wendell Smallwood (5-11, 202, sophomore) is hoping to improve on his 18-yard average from last season. The punt returner’s position has Jordan Thompson (5-8, 162, junior) as a safe choice, though special teams coach Joe DeForest will continue looking for a more explosive playmaker.
Michael Molinari (6-2, 210, redshirt senior) is back to handle kickoffs after making 54 last season, 14 of which went for touchbacks.
Backups: The versatile Molinari is on call behind Lambert and O’Toole. Daryl Worley (6-1, 200, sophomore) was taking reps at kick returner, while Vernon Davis Jr. (5-10, 165, redshirt sophomore) and Jacky Marcellus (5-8, 173, redshirt freshman) were fielding punts this spring.
Watch the video at the top of the page for player highlights and to learn how Allan Taylor and Justin Hoff grade the special teams after spring practice.