Joe DeForest was WVU's defensive coordinator last season and it did not go well. He's now the special teams coordinator and he's milking something out of every minute of the 15 spring practices.
"Last year, we didn't really have anyone and it was more on our own and with more of a relaxed pace," DePalma said. "Now it's a lot more structured."
Your typical spring practice starts with special teams. DePalma snaps for field goals or punts and on some days both. On other days, he'll get a breather and step to the sideline to watch kickoff drills. After about 30 minutes or so, observers are made to leave and the coaches begin to work closely and carefully with the offense and defense.
DeForest and his specialists move to the separate practice field and DeForest puts them through their own practice. They work on all the snaps, holds and kicks and devote time to specific drills. A good one for DePalma is what he calls a "Machine Gun." He'll get in his stance and quickly snap 10 balls that DeForest spots.
Speed is one thing, but technique is another. A proper snap, one with his legs locked and his elbows thrust into this thighs, pulls DePalma a foot or so backward. That's dangerous torque. He tries to move straight back every time and make sure he doesn't veer left or right and send the ball sailing the same way.
At other times, DePalma will send 15-yard snaps toward a goal post and try to hit a spot again and again. He hit his mark six times in 10 attempts Tuesday, the third practice in four days.
"That's a pretty good day," he said. "That's right on the right hip."
DePalma does this as the only player at his position. Teams often have extra quarterbacks or punters or kickers to keep the starter or the key players there fresh. Coaches don't want to wear out arms, legs and hips in April. DePalma, kicker Josh Lambert and punter/holder Michael Molinari are the only players the Mountaineers have until relief and competition arrive in the summer.
Truth be told, DePalma, who runs stadium steps after practice and is trying to become a faster, smoother runner to better cover punts, can get tired and sore. But he's taken measures against all of that. He's been stretching for years, which helps him get that flat back before snaps and keeps him from tweaking his lower extremities.
"I pride myself on how flexible my hamstrings are," he said.
He'd like to add to that list, of course, and figures to do so in the next three seasons, especially as DeForest takes such an active, aggressive role in molding his players.
"I did not think it was this hard," DePalma said, "but I wasn't as good as I am now."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.