MORGANTOWN — Billy Kinney has yet to have an offseason with the WVU football team where he isn’t looking over his shoulder, but that’s exactly what the rising redshirt-junior wants during spring and summer camps.
The last two seasons, Kinney competed with highly touted kicking prospect Jonn Young for the starting punter gig, and Kinney came out on top both times.
Even so, Young took a few reps from Kinney during the regular season last year, only for Kinney to reclaim the starting spot each week.
Young announced he would transfer in January, but now Kinney is battling with Houston transfer Luke Hogan for reps.
No matter what, it always seems like the Morgantown native and University High alum comes out on top.
Having the likes of Young and Hogan to battle it out with in camp helped Kinney become a better punter.
“Luke is a really hard worker, he is always trying to ask for tips to get better,” Kinney said. “He’s always trying to get better. He’s a really good competitor. It will definitely help out a lot bringing more of a competition into the offseason.”
But there’s another former teammate who helped Kinney along this spring. During his redshirt season, in 2015, Kinney watched Mike Molinari handle the punting and holding duties.
Three years later, Molinari is back as a special teams graduate assistant, working with kickers and punters.
When Molinari came aboard, he wanted to work with Kinney to see why his average punt yardage went down from 41.7, in 2016, to 40.9, in 2017.
“I sat down with Mike and we went through a lot of film from last year, and my biggest problem was my drop. It was really inconsistent,” Kinney said. “So, just really homing in on that drop and getting it consistent will make more of a consistent ball coming off of my foot.”
IRON MOUNTAINEERS: Wide receiver Gary Jennings, offensive tackle Colton McKivitz, wide receiver David Sills and linebacker Dylan Tonkery were named recipients of the Iron Mountaineer Award, presented to the most outstanding performers in WVU’s offseason strength and conditioning program.
The winners are the best in the testing at the conclusion of winter conditioning, measuring the broad jump, vertical jump, bench, squat, power clean lift, 225 bench, 40-yard sprint, pro shuttle, three cone, 60-yard shuttle and the 10/20-yard sprint. The top performers are selected by their teammates.
The award is a 6.2-pound coal statue made entirely of native West Virginian natural resources: Coal, wood and natural wood stain. One permanent Iron Mountaineer with the names of all winners is on display in the WVU strength and conditioning complex.
STALEY HONORED: Kicker Evan Staley, a redshirt sophomore from Romney, won the Tom Nickolich Memorial Award.
Staley, a Hampshire High graduate, is a two-year member of the football team and played in all 13 games last season. The academic all-Big 12 first team selection connected on 6 of 7 field goal attempts, including a long of 36 yards.
Staley is an exercise physiology major, who has earned Garrett Ford Academic Honor Roll and Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll accolades.
At the conclusion of spring drills each year, the award goes to a walk-on team member who has distinguished himself through his attitude and work ethic. It is presented in memory of Nickolich, a former WVU player, (1979-’82) who died of cancer, in 1983.