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MTSU transfer builds Mountaineer kicking depth

by Greg Talkington

SPORTS WRITER

MORGANTOWN -- In a rare move, West Virginia's coaching staff believed the Mountaineers were so much in need of a kicker that they recruited and gave a scholarship to Andy Good of Youngstown, Ohio.

But like most freshmen these days, Good

will likely see a redshirt season.

Why? Because of the emergence of Brad Cooper, a transfer from Middle Tennessee.

Cooper came to WVU in January of 2002 and sat out last season because of transfer rules.

But in the process, he impressed the coaching staff to the point that they asked senior Todd James to concentrate solely on punting this past summer.

Cooper, who once kicked a 53-yard field goal in a high school game, proved to possess a strong and accurate leg during spring drills in winning the placements job.

"He has as strong as leg as anyone I've seen since I've been here," James said. "I think he's going to do a real good job for us."

Ironically, Cooper left Middle Tennessee because he never got the opportunity for placements (PATs and field goals).

"I started two years as the kickoff man," Cooper, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound junior, said. "I once kicked a 65-yard field goal in practice there.

"But I never got the opportunity to do that in games, and I felt I was capable of contributing so much more."

So Cooper sent out films to coaches who recruited him out of high school and to a former Middle Tennessee assistant coach -- WVU wide receivers coach Steve Bird.

"Coach Bird was at Middle Tennessee my freshman year there," Cooper said. "I sent him one and West Virginia jumped on me real quick, and I decided to come here.

"Middle Tennessee was a great school and I liked it there. But it just didn't look like I would get the chance to kick field goals there."

Cooper's consistency won him the respect of his teammates during the spring.

Unlike most of them, however, Cooper did not stay on campus during the summer to take part in voluntary workouts, but with good reason.

"I spent most of the summer going around the country working at Ray Guy kicking camps," Cooper said. "A guy named Rick Sang got me into this and I really enjoy it.

"I got to go to a lot of places teaching high school kids how to kick. It's what I love to do."

Cooper seemed unsure about his status as kickoff man, saying he believed it would be a game to game decision.

But West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez wasn't.

"Oh yeah, he'll do our kickoffs," Rodriguez said. "Brad has a very strong leg, and he's great on directional kicks. He's really done a great job in our practices.

"Now how he'll do in from of 60,000 people, I don't know. But at least he has kicked in front of people before at Middle Tennessee."

Rodriguez also revealed that Cooper has been awarded a scholarship for the school year.

Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at gtalkington@exponent-telegram.com