During the 2013 West Virginia football season – when things weren’t going so well for the Mountaineers on the field during the dog days of October and November – one part of the team stood out from the rest.
WVU’s special teams stood out, and for the most part, it was for all the right reasons.
The group, which consists of junior punter Nick O’Toole, redshirt sophomore kicker Josh Lambert, junior long snapper John DePalma, redshirt senior kicker Michael Molinari and redshirt freshman kicker Mike Molina, have been able to bond during their first full year together, and said they will reach new heights this season.
O’Toole and Lambert formed an extremely strong bond with the whole special teams group a year ago. Special teams and safeties coach Joe DeForest said developing chemistry is all part of the entire group gelling with each other.
“(Just a year of being) together as a unit and getting to know each other and their work habits and their work ethics – just sort of gelling as a group now,” DeForest said.
DeForest said what has developed with this group of guys is special, but it’s what is needed to succeed as a team when the personalities of each player vary so greatly.
“Just like any position group – the holder, the snapper, the kicker and the punter – have to do the same thing and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and work off of them and I think they’ve done a nice job of that. I’m very confident,” he said.
By understanding the expectations DeForest has of his special teams’ members, O’Toole said being on the same page as a unit is not difficult at all for them. They all work together as one day in and day out.
“I just feel that all of our specialists – me, Josh (Lambert), Mike (Molina) – all of us just bring enthusiasm and we work hard in the weight room,” he said. “It’s just a good competition between all the kickers and punters. I just think we bring out the best in each other.”
Seeing the close bond that has formed throughout the past year with these players, DeForest said chemistry like this is great, but it should come fairly easy if players love their teammates and trust in them at all times.
“I think anytime you trust your teammate and you love your teammate, that you’ll work harder to do the extra things in order to not let him down,” he said. “That’s the bond we’ve developed there and they’ve developed on their own, obviously.
“But I think those are the types of things that will carry on to the field – not only with them, but with every positon group and the team as a whole.”
Another factor playing into the team’s chemistry is that many of the special teams players are roommates. O’Toole said it can get heated quickly in the apartment.
“When you get all four of us playing FIFA or something, the colors definitely are flying,” he said.