WVU still seeking starters

While the opening game is just 17 days away for West Virginia University’s football team, the competition for starting positions for the Mountaineers’ Aug. 31 home and season opener against William & Mary continues.

“There are a lot of position battles that are ongoing and will be throughout this week,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said.

“I am not making any decisions this week on any of the starters. Any time you have six more practices and a week of camp, things can change pretty drastically.

“Guys have good days and bad days. You are looking for guys that can consistently put a couple of good days together, which we are starting to figure out who those guys are.

“If the guys have a bad day, then they need to regroup pretty quickly if they want to be in the hunt for the starting job or a back up role. That is where we are.”

Among that very long list of names is one familiar to local football fans-former Parkersburg South standout Michael Molinari.

The team’s primary holder on field goals and extra points since being redshirted in 2010, Molinari came out of the spring sitting atop the depth chart at both that position, but also being the heir apparent for departed punters Corey Smith and Tyler Bitancurt.

Since that time, however, the coaching staff has brought in a pair of punters to give Molinari some competition and add some much needed depth to the position.

The additions of Nick O’Toole and Josh Lambert have made for some interesting battles.

“Our punters are all about one yard apart” special teams coordinator Joe DeForest said.

“All of them have been booting it over 40 yards.

“It’s a great competition. Consistency is the key. We’ve got guys that can hit the big ball 45-50 yards.

But, then they’ll hit one 20 yards off the side of their foot.

“I look for two things. Well, three things.

I look for operation time-how long it takes them to get it off; hang time-how long you can give me to get down field and tackle the guy with the ball; and, average.

That’s the last thing I look at. It really is.

“If he can hit it 40 yards, that’s great, but I need hang time. Right now, our hang time is over four (seconds).”

Molinari is the only one of the trio with Division I game experience as the redshirt junior averaged 37.1 yards on seven kicks against Cincinnati in 2011 and punted the ball a career-high eight times in a snowy win at Rutgers.

His biggest competition appears to be coming from O’Toole, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 220 pounds.

The sophomore-to-be played one season at Fullerton College, averaging 41.8 yards per punt.

Lambert, a freshman walkon, also has stayed in the hunt for the starting job..

Contact Jim Butta at jbutta@newsandsentinel.com