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James having another solid season

Paul Schofield

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia football team didn’t do much right Sept. 20 at Maryland.

The offense was out of whack, and the defense was soft.

One of the only things that was positive about the loss was the continued consistent punting of Todd James of Ringgold High School. The senior averaged 41 yards per kick and limited one of the nation’s most dangerous return specialists, Steve Suter, to a six-yard average on six returns.

The Mountaineers punt coverage team, at times, frustrated Suter, who peered at the West Virginia sidelines numerous times after punts.

“He seemed pretty ticked off,” James said. “To hold a returner like him down was a great achievement. The entire unit did a great job.”

James often used an unorthodox style by using a rolling out, rugby-style punt. He also used the regular-style punt. Both were affective against the Terrapins and other opponents this season.

“I wasn’t sure how it (rugby style) would work when the coaches introduced it,” James said. “Here at West Virginia, we have a motto ‘trust your coaches.’ It’s worked out well.”

James said there are a lot of advantages of using the rugby punt. The kick is similar to a soccer goalie running and kicking the ball after making a save.

“The rotation of the ball is different,” he said. “It’s hard to handle when it hits the ground. It also helps to get outside your opponent’s rush. It helps to slow down their rush because they don’t know where you’re going to kick from. It’s been effective.”

James is having a pretty good season. He has punted the ball 26 times and is averaging 41.7 yards per kick.

“I feel like I’m having a solid season,” James said. “I still need to be more consistent. I’m working on things that I can improve on. I’ll be better by the end of the season.”

James is working on his directional punting. It’s something he hasn’t worked on at practice too much because he’s been doing other things.

“I have to fine tune some of my techniques,” he said. “We’ve worked hard on the rugby punt and on protection at practice.”

The protection let him down on his first punt of the season. Wisconsin blocked James’ first kick for a touchdown. It helped the Badgers in their 24-17 victory.

“I’m over that now,” James said. “But at the time, it probably cost us a chance at a victory.”

James did everything for the Mountaineers last year. He averaged 37.4 per punt, and he handled the place kicking duties. He made 46 of 50 extra points and 11 of 16 field goals.

But those kicking duties are now handled by transfer Brad Cooper, and that’s just fine by James.

“I can concentrate more on punting,” he said. “If I had to place kick again, I’m ready. But not place kicking is a benefit for me.”

It gives James and his punt coverage teammates more time to worry about another great punt returner — Miami’s Roscoe Parrish. He returned a punt for a touchdown in the Hurricanes’ latest victory over Boston College.

West Virginia (1-3) opens the Big East Conference season against Miami (4-0) on Thursday at the Orange Bowl.


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