Punt, Kick Return Are Highly Competitive Positions For WVU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Punt, Kick Return Are Highly Competitive Positions For WVU


West Virginia University had a returner that could strike fear in the opponent. His name was Tavon Austin and he will likely be a first round pick in the NFL Draft later this month. His departure leaves a big vacancy in the return game. Six players are competing for that open spot as well as the kickoff return position vacated by Stedman Bailey.

Running Back Andrew Buie and Slot Receiver Jordan Thompson are getting reps with the first unit. Buie has had some muffs in both punt return and kickoff return.

"Every day whether it is catching punts or catching kickoffs, we are doing something to help him," Receivers Coach Lonnie Galloway stated. "He dropped one and Avery (Williams) dropped one today."

Thompson, also known as squirt, has some Tavon Austin qualities in his arsenal. He has speed and agility that should keep him in the mix as a primary returner.

"Squirt can do a lot once he gets in the open field," Galloway said. "Now, can he go 100 yards? I don't know. I think he is fast. I think he will be exciting. I think he will be one of the guys that are back there that we can depend on to catch the football in kickoff return and punt return."

There are about six players in the mix for punt and kickoff return this spring. That group includes a pair of defenders. Redshirt Freshman Cornerback Vernon Davis literally came out of nowhere.

"He wasn't in the mix," Galloway laughed. "I asked him, have you ever caught punts? He said, yes, I caught them in high school. I said get over here."

Since that initial attempt to catch punts, Davis has continued to impress Galloway.

"He has a natural ability to catch punts and kickoff returns," Galloway stated. "It's been good to have him back there. I think he can run a little bit. I like Vernon, I really do. He will have a chance to be back there."

The other defender in the mix is Redshirt Sophomore Cornerback Avery Williams. He is not having as much success in that role as Davis.

"I don't know how long Avery will be back there," Galloway chuckled. "Right now they are just trying to catch them."

Certainly catching the ball is the most important part of a successful return. Once that has been achieved, Galloway has a couple of key goals in mind for his players.

"The biggest thing for us punt return-wise is to get a first down," Galloway stated. "Anything after that on the return is bonus for us. Kickoff return-wise you want to get the ball out past the 30."

Tavon Austin returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns a year ago. Will this group of returners experience that kind of success? For now six of them are competing for that opportunity.

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