Mountaineer kicker to use special kicking tee in 2012
Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 01:02
It's no secret the West Virginia football team had a lot of "firsts" during the 70-33 Orange Bowl victory against Clemson on Jan. 4.
It was the first time any school has scored 70 points in any bowl game, the first time anyone passed for as many yards as junior quarterback Geno Smith's 401 yards and the first time anyone has scored 10 touchdowns in a bowl game.
The team had another "first" that hasn't received a lot of attention.
For the first time ever in a collegiate football game, WVU kicker Tyler Bitancurt used a new model of kicking tee, designed to improve college kicking performance, said Jay Spiegel, inventor of the tee.
Bitancurt spoke about being the first to use the new tee.
"I feel honored. I know how many people use other tees (Spiegel) has made," Bitancurt said. "If this tee blows up, and everyone starts using it, it would be pretty cool that I was the first one to use it. It's pretty special."
Spiegel, who helped coach Bitancurt in high school, is the creator of the Ground Zero Kicking Tee, the official tee used by the National Football League, as well as the Ground Zero Onside, the tee used by most college athletes.
"When I look at NFL games, usually both kickers are using my tees. Eighty to 90 percent of college kickers are using my tees (as well)," Spiegel said.
Spiegel said the tee is designed to help support the ball, and has spaces for the tip of the ball to spin as it leaves the tee.
"It's important to be comfortable," Bitancurt said. "I didn't want to hurt the team just so I could be the first player to use it, but I tried it out, and it felt good. I liked it."
"It's called Triplex because it allows for three different ways to kick the ball – long kicks, squib kicks and onside kicks," Spiegel said.
Spiegel said the tee will likely gain popularity, and replace most of his tees currently in use.
"Bitancurt is the only player to have used the Triplex tee in a game, but I would guess it will soon become the most popular in (college football)," he said.
Paul Woodside, Bitancurt's primary high school kicking coach, WVU's all-time leading scorer and Hall of Fame kicker, said the tee is a testimony to Spiegel's brilliance.
"All (of his tees) have been revolutionary," Woodside said.
Woodside said the Triplex tee exposes the "sweet" spot of the ball in a far better way than previous tees, allowing the ball to leave the tee more efficiently, and the tee is designed in a way so kickers will no longer kick the tee, giving the kicker a large level of confidence.
Woodside said he believes the new tee is one of Spiegel's best.
"You really can't hold a candle to these tees," he said. "Between Tyler's athleticism and Jay's engineering, it's a perfect fit."