Sophomore kicker has already made his name for the Mountaineers
Published: Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 01:08
West Virginia kicker Tyler Bitancurt will forever be known as a legend.
For most West Virginia fans, it doesn't take much for a player to endear themselves to one of the strongest fanbases in the country.
If a player makes a great play – or, say, a game-winning field goal – he goes down in history.
If that big play is made against a rival as hated as Pittsburgh, that player is deemed a legend.
Redshirt sophomore Tyler Bitancurt did just that last season, as he nailed a game-winning 43-yard field goal as time expired, along with three other field goals, to put away the Panthers in the 102nd edition of the Backyard Brawl.
Now, Bitancurt finds himself heading into the 2010 season as confident as ever.
"I feel more comfortable, that's for sure," said Bitancurt when asked about what is different from last season at this time.
The road to this season was not quite as easy, though, as the Springfield, Va., native had offseason surgery to fix a bone spur in his kicking foot. That injury kept him out of spring practice.
"I have recovered well from the surgery," Bitancurt said. "It took me a little while in the offseason, but I took my time with it, and it has not affected me at all right now."
Two players that have been key to the recovery of Bitancurt are his best friends on the team, holder Jeremy Kash and long snapper Cody Nutter.
"It's an important time to have them on my side," Bitancurt said. "Because, coming into camp, you never know how stressful it is going to be – especially coming off a surgery."
Immediately following the surgery, it was recommended Bitancurt rest the foot so he didn't aggravate the injury.
"For a couple of weeks up until a month after the surgery, I wasn't even worried about touching a football," Bitancurt said. "I was just trying to get my strength back."
With Bitancurt out for all of spring practice, it allowed West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart to realize just how much of a luxury having the all-Big East kicker was to his team.
"We have a fine field-goal kicker in him and a fine placekicker as well," Stewart said.
Bitancurt was 13-for-15 on field goal attempts and 41-for-42 on extra point tries during the 2009 campaign.
After Bitancurt was cleared to begin kicking again, he said much of his work came with former Mountaineer kicker Paul Woodside.
"I didn't go to any kicking camps from around the country," Bitancurt said.
Bitancurt did say he worked during the offseason to condition one part of his body that is the key to kicking in clutch situations – his mind.
"I strengthened my whole body basically, so that makes me stronger mentally," Bitancurt said.
With the regular season opener against Coastal Carolina five days away, Bitancurt said he feels fortunate to have regained last season's form.
"I am hitting the ball really well right now," Bitancurt said. "It's like I never even had a surgery."