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George Washington kicker Michael Hughes (99) has caught the eye of the WVU football staff.

West Virginia University’s football staff has garnered plenty of attention lately for its run on big-time verbal commitments, especially on offense. Four-star offensive tackle Wyatt Milum, four-star receiver Kaden Prather, four-star running back Jaylen Anderson, and Top 25 quarterback Will Crowder would highlight most any school’s class.

The defense hasn’t been bad, either, with elite athlete Andrew Wilson-Lamp being one of the early pledges, while safety Saint McLeod and Brayden Dudley are very solid.

Yet the Mountaineers haven’t forgotten the third phase of the game, either. While WVU does not currently have a commit on special teams, the coaching staff has turned up the heat on a few elite kickers and punters around the country in recent weeks.

The first target to know comes from Charleston, where George Washington High School kicker Michael Hughes received a preferred walk-on opportunity from the home-state Mountaineers. National analyst Chris Sailer ranks him as the No. 14 kicker in the country for the Class of 2021, and he also has interest from Connecticut, Iowa State and Memphis, among others.

Down in, Spartanburg, South Carolina, specialist Will Fowler has been in touch with West Virginia for several months now, making FaceTime calls with the staff earlier in the spring before going on a virtual “visit” with the coaches earlier this month. Shortly after that “trip,” Fowler learned from the staff that he had a preferred walk-on offer from the Mountaineers.

“When they told me, I was ecstatic,” Fowler said. “Both my parents were with me when it happened and it means a lot to be sought after by a program like West Virginia. It’s a life-changing opportunity, so they celebrated in full capacity.”

Sailer ranks Fowler as the No. 26 kicker in the country. Fowler also is receiving interest from Clemson, Tennessee, North Carolina and more.

As for West Virginia’s punting needs, the Mountaineers have ventured into neighboring Ohio, where they found Garrett Junk. The 2021 recruit first heard from the coaches earlier in the spring, then followed up with his own virtual visit earlier this month, coming away impressed with what he saw.

“Overall, it was great,” he said. “They gave me a virtual tour of all of their new facilities coming by May 2021, and I was blown away. From the new locker room, players lounge, NFL room, and recovery facilities, I was very impressed.”

Sailer rates Junk as the nation’s No. 14 punter, and he has heard from the likes of Ohio State, Arizona and Boston College, among others.

He plans to check out several schools in person in the fall and will make his decision at that point.

West Virginia will continue to reach out to top specialists around the country as the summer continues. Recruiting kickers and punters can be a tricky situation because so many of them sign as preferred walk-ons, but if certain schools have the opportunity to extend a full scholarship, they can get a real leg up on the opposition and snag the recruit.

Fortunately for the Mountaineers, this staff – just like they have been with everything – has done its research and given itself plenty of very good options.