With the units playing more game-like situations, coach Nick Saban said the young kickers and punters responded well and the numbers backed it up.
“We’ve been trying in practice, which we haven’t really done in the past with more experienced guys as specialists, is create situations in practice where they have to run in and kick,” Saban said. “Kick a field goal and make a play. And that’s what we wanted to do (Saturday) instead of just having a punting period where it was situational, everything had to be running off the sidelines and doing it like in a game.”
The two place kickers made a combined 7-of-8 attempts with Cade Foster’s 52-yarder being the only miss. The true freshman, though, came back and nailed one from the same distance with more than enough behind it. Sophomore Jeremy Shelley, the only punter or kicker with college experience, made all four of his field goal attempts — all coming from 36 yards or closer.
Earlier in the week, Saban said he would not be opposed to using two kickers in the season. Foster has shown more promise kicking longer distances while Shelley has been more accurate from closer range.
Both true freshman punters also showed improvement in Saturday’s scrimmage, Saban said, although no stats were provided by UA media relations.
Walk-on Cody Mandell has been more consistent than fellow-true freshman Jay Williams who earned a scholarship, Saban said.
“Jay, when he does it right, he really does it well,” Saban said. “But we just have to keep working on the consistency.”
The young specialists are getting acquainted with the lay of the land at Bryant-Denny Stadium in the first two scrimmages. Former Tide kicker Leigh Tiffin said Alabama’s stadium was among the worst when it comes to judging the swirling wind.
When asked if the new upper deck in the south end zone made any effect on the wind factor, Saban wasn’t ready to give an answer.
“We’re still trying to get them to forget what they wore to the prom last spring and understand they are in college now and wind patterns are something that comes down the road,” Saban said. “It’s almost like when you take accounting, you take Accounting I, II and III if you’re an accounting major. We’re in Pre-accounting right now. So the wind pattern comes up in Accounting III is what I am trying to say.”
Michael Casagrande covers University of Alabama sports for The Star.