Corey Smith Replaced on WVU Special Teams - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Corey Smith Replaced on WVU Special Teams

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MORGANTOWN -

WVU continues to make changes to its special teams units to improve what has been a poor start to the season.

Corey Smith, the team's punter and kickoff specialist, will not retain either starting position on Saturday against Connecticut.

The senior from Bunker Hill, W.Va. won both jobs coming out of camp and into the season but has struggled with consistency on his punts and has had two punts of just 14 yards in the past two weeks.

"Punt team, we only had one opportunity [against Bowling Green], but it was a repeat of what we saw last week," head coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday.

In Smith's place, redshirt freshman Michael Molinari will get the first start of his career at punter. To this point, the Parkersburg, W.Va. native has been the team's holder, but has not gotten a single rep with the punt team.

"We're going to let Mike punt it this week, just to kind of see how he does," says Holgorsen. "In practice, we clearly think Corey was better, so we did that, but Corey's struggling a little bit with it right now, so we'll get Mike out there and see what he does. Corey will still be there if we need him and if we're not liking what we see out of Mike, we'll put Corey in there. It may be like that the rest of the year."

Despite Smith's struggles on punts in recent weeks, he appeared to be getting a good leg behind his kickoffs, even though his coverage unit didn't always do well in taking advantage of strong kicks. Still, he will be replaced in that duty as well, with Tyler Bitancurt taking over against the Huskies.

On Saturday, Bitancurt got the team's last two kickoffs and hit 69- and 49-yarders, the latter of which was a directional kick meant to travel less distance with a greater hang time. Holgorsen was impressed with his effort and is rewarding him with the starting job in addition to his role as the field goal kicker.

"Maybe Corey had a lot on his plate, I don't know, but he did a decent job with it and because we had so many opportunities, we wanted to get Tyler in there to kick a few anyway and Tyler did an excellent job of putting the ball exactly where we wanted him to," says Holgorsen. "Based on performance last week, we'll let Tyler start as the kickoff guy as well. Tyler was the [WVU special teams] player of the week last week and he's done a great job."

Coming into the season, it looked as though field goals would be a chore for the Mountaineers based solely on what was shown in practices open to the media. So far, Bitancurt has made all but one of his 10 attempts on the year and has been a strong point in the Mountaineers' special teams.

Saturday will be a chance for both Bitancurt and Molinari to show they can do a better job than Smith and help move West Virginia's special teams in the right direction.

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