TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After Alabama’s two spring scrimmages prior to A-Day, people were left to wonder how special teams and specialists were shaping up. All there was to go on were reports from the few who were able to attend the closed stadium skirmishes.
That all changed Saturday at A-Day and several things came to light which had been rumored all spring, specifically regarding the kickers and punters.
Here are some A-Day observations about how all aspects of the Crimson Tide’s kicking game are shaping up:
• Kickoffs. The White's Will Reichard and the Crimson’s Joseph Bulovas were both impressive. Reichard kicked off five times and had four touchbacks. His fifth attempt landed at the 5-yard line. Bulovas booted four kickoffs. Three were touchbacks and one landed at the 2.
Analysis: If Bulovas stays out of the transfer portal he could be the primary kickoff man. Reichard would be a very solid backup there. This would allow Reichard to concentrate on PAT’s and field goals.
PAT’s and field goals: Reichard clearly had the better day and reports by practice observers say he had the better spring. At A-Day, Reichard made all four extra points he attempted and did not miss on his only field-goal attempt from 43 yards. Reports said Reichard did miss a field goal or two in the other scrimmages but was more consistent place-kicking all spring than was Bulovas, who made both his PAT’s at A-Day and a 34-yard field goal. He missed field goals from 41 and 49 yards.
Analysis: Unless something changes, Reichard is most likely to be the field goal and PAT kicker against Duke in Atlanta on August 31. It appears Reichard, the top rated kicker in the nation in the latest recruiting class, is ready to end the drama there.
The holder on kicks may be determined by the kicker. Mac Jones was working with Reichard and Tua Tagovailoa with Bulovas. If so, count on Jones being the holder, for that reason.
The snapper on all kicks and punts has been Thomas Fletcher. His backup Scott Meyer is in the portal, but he also has a wrist injury and didn't dress for A-Day.
Punting: Scrimmage reports said Skyler DeLong had rediscovered his mojo and corrected the mechanical problems he was having on his drop. DeLong on Saturday showed just that. The sophomore averaged 47.5 yards per punt including boots of 54 and 49 yards. He showed good hang time as well. Reichard is a serviceable punter and averaged 42.2 yards on six attempts. Fifth-year man Mike Bernier is still in the transfer portal and punted once for 34 yards. He averaged 38 yards last season.
Analysis: If DeLong continues his spring renaissance into fall camp, he’s the guy. Reichard is a good backup plan who may not be needed. If so, he might be able to concentrate on place-kicking.
• Punt returns: It’s well-known what the electric Jaylen Waddle can do. His backups at A-Day included the experienced Trevon Diggs and redshirt freshman Xavier Williams.
With Josh Jacobs gone to the NFL, a new primary kickoff returner must be found. Waddle will get a shot and did so Saturday although there was no live tackling on kickoffs. Others auditioning were speedster Henry Ruggs III and Diggs. All three were joined deep by primary blocker Brian Robinson in the role he played for Jacobs last year.
Analysis: The gut feeling is Waddle will be back with Robinson, but Ruggs is probably the fastest man on the team and he could see time there. Ruggs was a dynamic kick returner in his high school days at Robert E. Lee in Montgomery. The bet here is Waddle will be the primary guy vs. Duke.