It wasn’t that long ago when scholarships were not set aside for special teams. Kicker, punters, holders and snappers were ordinarily walk-ons, and with rare exceptions the 85 scholarships were sprinkled atop offense and defense only. You still see a kicker wearing No. 97, a punter from a nearby high school, a holder who’s the backup quarterback or a snapper who’s only ever snapped and has made the most of hundreds of thousands of snaps, but you also players who are trained through camps and clinics to gain experience and exposure. If players are becoming specialized, it then makes sense to see football teams do the same and specialize their recruiting.
West Virginia has done this, devoting free rides to people who boot, snap and plant the ball, and it’s beginning to resemble quarterback recruiting in that the more you recruit the more likely you are to find the right player. Mike Molina is the kicker, but he’ll be a senior. The Mountaineers have Jonn Young, but it seems as if he may end up as the punter. WVU’s succession plan includes a kicker in the 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes.
Earlier this month, West Virginia assistant Mark Scott made a trip to South Carolina with the sole purpose being to see Seneca High School specialist Hunter Pearson. The 6-foot-4, 192-pound prospect is ranked as the No. 3 kicker in the country by Kohl’s Kicking, the top experts in the field. It didn’t take long for Scott to pull the trigger and offer.
“He talked about liking my size and frame, my leg, and personality,” said Pearson. “He said that the current kicker [Mike Molina] will be a senior [this year], so there would be a chance that I could get the job right away if I went out there and performed.”
Even if the Mountaineers were to land Pearson and make him the kicker, and have Young as the punter, the staff would not rest on that combo alone for the future. That’s why they have also offered a 2019 specialist that may be the best in the country — Altoona (Pa.) Bishop Guilfoyle’s Kolton McGhee.