Kicking the injuries
HUNTINGTON -- As Marshall's special teams go through drills in spring practice, both punter Tyler Williams and kicker Justin Haig are simply happy to be on the field taking reps.
Injuries took their toll on both players last season, and both played through the pain for the good of the team.
Now, with a few months of rest behind them, they are getting their legs back in gear, looking for a stronger 2013 season.
"For me, it's just trying to get healthy for a little bit," said Haig, who fought through back spasms throughout 2012. "As soon as I got healthy, it was more just technical stuff. I was doing well, but I was just wanting to improve on some stuff like getting more height on the ball and basically concentrating more."
Neither had poor outings in 2013 by any means.
Haig finished the year 13-of-16 on field goal attempts and was a perfect 4-of-4 from 40 yards or beyond, including a game-winning 45-yarder against Houston.
Williams was also excellent as a freshman for the Herd in 2012. He was one of the nation's top 10 punters, averaging 45.2 yards on his 43 punts.
His long was a 66-yard bomb and he also landed 16 punts inside the 20-yard line with only four touchbacks.
What's more impressive is that he did so, all while working through a disk injury in his back.
"I've had it for a while," Williams said. "It's something that just sort of lingered on for a while and it's one of those where you get used to the pain, but you know it's there."
Both guys said that they were on some pretty extended rest throughout the offseason - focused more on getting their bodies right to be able to participate in the spring sessions.
"The first couple of months or so - January and February - it was still lingering and I couldn't fully do squats and all that stuff," Haig said. "I feel a lot better now. The focus is more on kicking now and staying healthy, then this summer, run a lot, get in shape a little more, trim down a little more for season and shed those winter pounds there."
Normally, kickers and punters might not be noted for their weight room work, but each it was crucial to their success in their respective craft.
The stigma might also be that kicking is all about leg power, but both are more focused on getting their core strengthened to go through the rigors of an entire season.
"With kicking and punting, it's a weird motion," Williams said. "There's a lot of torque, a lot of stress that's on your back and people don't realize it. I didn't realize it until now. I need to get my back and my core a lot stronger so I can handle it."
The Herd's kicking duo will be getting in plenty of work this spring in an effort to get ready for the season.
For now, they are utilizing their time in the spring to work on techniques and the different things the coaching staff is incorporating to improve the Herd's special teams.
After being down in the back for much of the last couple of months, both are glad to be back at full strength for the Herd.
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