MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Punter Josh Growden remains West Virginia’s international man of mystery.
The 26-year-old former and future Australian-rules football player arrived at WVU on Aug. 16 after initially deciding head back Down Under rather than spend a fifth year at LSU. And while his teammates and coaches have had the opportunity to meet Growden, it’s too early for anyone to be able to say they truly know him.
That includes the man at the top of the food chain, Neal Brown, who has been focused on more pressing concerns than punting as he tries to get the Mountaineers prepared for the Aug. 31 season opener against James Madison.
“I haven’t been around him enough to talk to him much,” Brown noted.
Long-snapper Rex Sunahara said he didn’t even know Growden was joining the team until he showed up for his first position meeting.
“Our position coach was like ‘Our new punter is here,’” Sunahara said. “And I was like, ‘OK, let’s go meet him.’ And he gelled with all of us right there.”
Brown knows a couple things about his new punter, though.
For one, he likes having a south-toed punter.
“It’s difficult to catch a left-footed punter unless you have one on your team,” Brown said. “The trajectory of the ball comes out differently. It’s a positive to have both a right-footed and left-footed punter. It creates some issues from a punt-returning standpoint.”
Sunahara said it doesn’t create any issues from a snapper’s perspective.
“You’re aiming for the same spot,” he said. “It’s just flipped for the punter. It’s not that big of a difference.”
Growden spent the past two seasons as a short-field punting specialist at LSU, brought in when the Tigers were near midfield and looking to pin opponents deep. Brown said that experience shows.
“He places the ball inside the 10 as well as anyone I’ve ever seen,” Brown said.
A more underrated element that Growden brings to West Virginia is three years of experience as LSU’s holder. Quarterbacks Jack Allison and Trey Lowe had been working at the position prior to his arrival.
“He’s really kind of solidified that spot,” Brown said. “That’s something that went into our decision-making. We didn’t really have anybody on the roster that ever held in a game. Evan [Staley] has kicked better since we’ve gotten a consistent holder.”