Friday, August 22, 2014

Alabama Analysis: New faces highlight Tide special teams

With the departure of kicker Cade Foster and punter Cody Mandell, the Alabama special teams unit will undergo an extreme makeover this season.

Prominent players

H - Cooper Bateman or Alec Morris
K - Adam Griffith
LS - Cole Mazza
P - JK Scott
KR/PR - Christion Jones

Potential kick/punt returners (In addition to C. Jones)

Chris Black
Tony Brown
Marlon Humphrey
Cyrus Jones
ArDarius Stewart
DeAndrew White

Departures from 2013

K - Cade Foster
KR/PR - Dee Hart (Transferred)
P - Cody Mandell
H - AJ McCarron

-New holder
-New kicker
-New punter

Does that qualify as an extreme makeover? Well, in the world of special teams play, it certainly does.

For the time being, which is obviously subject to change, it appears that either Cooper Bateman or Alec Morris, both backup quarterbacks on the Tide roster, will replace AJ McCarron as the holder on field goal and extra point attempts.

In respect to kicker, Cade Foster has graduated, which means Adam Griffith will take the wheel in 2014. Kicking in spot duty last season, and most noted for his "Hail Mary" against Auburn which was returned 109-yards for the game-winning touchdown, the job is Griffith's to lose.

The Alabama punting department will meet the same fate as the field goal unit. Due to the graduation of Cody Mandell, freshman JK Scott will take over the skyscraping duties. Scott, per reports, has garnered high praise from head coach Nick Saban, and like Griffith in respect to field goal duties, the job at punter is Scott's to lose. Prior to Scott's arrival, backup quarterback Alec Morris did the punting during Alabama's spring game.

When it comes to the return game, Christion Jones is the man, but don't assume it will stay that way. This unit always has a chance to be shuffled simply based on in-game production. If (big if) Jones were to have various issues in regards to catching the ball and/or fielding/returning treacherous punts or kickoffs, a change would certainly be made. Wide receivers Chris Black and DeAndrew White are the most viable options in the return game to complement Jones, as well as freshman defensive back Tony Brown.

Many times in college football, the special teams unit is essentially invisible until a costly mistake is made. Lack of fundamentals within the group always has the potential to change the complexion of a game.

Speaking in general terms, as well as for Alabama, not every kickoff or punt has to be returned for a touchdown, and not every 50-yard field goal has to split the posts. Take care of the basics and “routine” plays, and let the offense/defense take care of the rest.

Don’t be a hero, just execute the fundamentals.

Unit rating: 8/10


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