To this point, it has been a rocky career for Mountaineer punter Corey Smith. Highs, lows, rinse and repeat. This season, Smith looks to find consistency both mentally and physically in his final season at West Virginia.
Halfway through last year, Smith was benched in favor of Michael Molinari after struggling early on. After Molinari also went through woes of his own, Smith was given another opportunity and made the most of it against Pitt. He averaged 57.3 yards on four punts with a long of 62. He remained the WVU punter for the rest of the season.
"A year ago, mentally I thought I was okay," Smith said. "When we got in game situations, sometimes I couldn't turn it on as fast as I wanted to. I would always get in the zone as athletes like to say, but I think I had times where it was harder to click into that zone."
With changes to the coaching staff, Joe DeForest has taken over responsibility of the kickers and punters. Smith says DeForest has made a big difference in his mental approach to the game.
"One thing I've already talked to Coach DeForest about is getting more help in that I have books I'm reading now about [getting in the zone]," Smith said. "I'm just trying to be able to get more familiar so I can get in that zone quicker than maybe previous years."
When the punter is on the field, all eyes are on him until that ball is in the air. This is one of the mental obstacles Smith says he is trying to work on this summer. He wants to ignore everything except what his responsibility is to get the job done.
"I have to block out anything that is irrelevant," Smith said. "Having to block out the crowd and any external factors that you cannot control. Blocking it out and focusing on two or three things that are on the field because in reality, that's all that's going to make the difference.
"Making sure I come up through the ball or where I want my drop to be. It has to be just a few things or you're going to overload yourself and you're going to take your mind off of a key point that you need to be focusing on."
Coach DeForest has coached kickers and punters in the past at both Duke and Oklahoma State, so this is nothing new to him either.
"It's another set of eyes," Smith said. "It's always helpful to have a guy that definitely knows what he's talking about that has proven success with kickers so I think it's great to meet with somebody like that everyday, even if it's for only 20 minutes before practice and then out on the field for a little bit."
The leg is obviously the most important asset for a punter, and Smith says that he is going to work on keeping it strong during the season.
"Leg speed, strength and endurance are what I want to put a little more emphasis on from game to game," Smith said. "Last year, my leg would start to feel a little bit tired and worn down. It's kind of hard to stay warmed up for four hours because we come out even before the entire team does to warm up so endurance is one thing I want to put a little more emphasis on so I don't get as tired or fatigued late in games."
In the spring and early on this summer, it has been clear that Coach DeForest's advice may be working. Smith has been booming the ball and the coaching staff hopes it translates into game situations.