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Grant Traylor: Freshman kickers Curraj, Smith getting valuable repetitions

Aug. 24, 2013 @ 12:43 AM

Looking across the football field at the Marshall University football team there is one position where a substantial increase in bodies is found.

No longer does the kicking game consist of just kicker Justin Haig and punter Tyler Williams.

Sure, the veterans are certainly in the running for the top spots at their positions, but there are an impressive pair of freshmen that continue to get reps and make the most of the opportunity in fall camp.

Those players are Amoreto Curraj, a freshman from Leto H.S. in Tampa, Fla., and Nick Smith, a freshman from Jonathan Alder H.S. in Plain City, Ohio.

Both are still learning proper techniques in terms of the shifting of weight from plant foot to kicking foot and cleaning up some of the things that were hindering their ability to be consistent.

Marshall offensive coordinator Bill Legg has spent numerous hours with both as they go through kicking and kickoff repetitions.

Legg likened the kicking game to a golf swing.

"A kickoff is like hitting a driver and field goals are like hitting a 7 or 8-iron," Legg said. "One you are trying to drive the ball and the other, you are trying to get more air, but it's all the same mechanics. If your weight is too far forward, you are going to hit a wormburner or hit on top of the ball."

While the mechanics are coming around, both Curraj and Smith have shown the Thundering Herd coaching staff something that cannot be taught -- having a thunder-foot.

The distance for both is impressive, considering their youth and newness to NCAA Division I football.

At one point in an earlier practice Curraj nailed a 55-yard field goal while both he and Smith have shown the ability to hit from 40 to 45 yards with relative ease.

Their presence in camp increased nearly 10 days ago when Haig was held out with what was described by Marshall coach Doc Holliday as a strain.

And especially with Marshall having issues last season in kickoff coverage, it would be a bonus if one of those freshmen stepped into the fold to take some of the weight off of Haig's shoulders.

Last year, Haig handled kicks and kickoffs despite back spasms that limited him in practices to save him for game day.

Holliday said while it would be ideal, he will assess the situation moving forward as the season-opener with Miami (Ohio) approaches.

"Bottom line is that we have to be able to trust them to stick them in the game," Holliday said. "They are still freshmen and what's going to happen when there are people up in the stands. We'll keep putting them in situations with a little pressure and see how they respond."

QB CLUB CASINO NIGHT: The Huntington Quarterback Club will host its Casino Night in the Don Morris Room of Memorial Student Center from 6:30 to 11 p.m.on Saturday.

Tickets for the event are $100 and includes QB Club membership for the year, food and beverages. Those can be purchased by contacting a current QB Club representative or by calling the Big Green at (304) 696-4661.

FOLLOW THE HERD: Marshall athletics has launched a new Twitter account devoted specifically to Marshall football.

In the Twitterverse, you can follow along.

It's @HerdFB.

Grant Traylor is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or gtraylor@herald-dispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).

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