Mandell Punting Is Big For Alabama

One of the goals of the Alabama offense is "to end every drive with a kick." Ideally, of course, that kick is an extra point. Next best usually is a field goal try. The third option is a punt. No disrespect to Western Kentucky, but Bama would hope to not have too many punts when the Crimson Tide has its home opener Saturday.

Other than Friday afternoon's walk-through, preparations have been completed for Alabama to host Western Kentucky at 2:30 .m. CDT in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. The game will be regionally televised on the Southeastern Conference Network.

Both teams are 1-0. Alabama, ranked number one in the nation, has won 10 consecutive home opening games, including all five under Coach Nick Saban. The wins in the Saban era have been by an average of 34.4 points per game as the Tide has averaged 41.6 points in those five wins.

One of the many highlights of Bama's 41-14 win over Michigan at the Cowboys Classic in Dallas last week was the punting of junior Cody Mandell. Although he was called on only four times, Mandell was outstanding. He averaged 47 yards per punt with a long of 59 yards, two punts over 50 yards, two forced fair catches, and two kicks downed inside the 20 – including one at the one-yard line. His first punt after Bama went three-and-out on its first possession was a 51-yard effort that flipped field position. Only the 59-yard punt was returned, and that one for only three yards.

"I have really been concentrating on my technique," Mandell said. "I have been trying to drop the ball a little later on my punts and really pay attention to the little things and it seems to be paying off. From game to game I really have to just let the line block for me and focus on putting the football where the coaches want it."

Mandell, a walk-on from Lafayette, La., who has been the Tide's punter for three years, did extra work in the summer to get ready. He attended Kohl Kicking in Wisconsin and also worked with Rocky Willingham in Dallas. He said the work on his technique showed in the performance against Michigan.

"We're just trying to get a little better every day," he said.

Mandell said it is not his job to kick the ball as far as he can. He doesn't want to out-kick his coverage and he doesn't want to kick into the end zone. "Whatever the team needs," he said.

Mandell is pleased with the punt coverage team. Although a number of men who were on that unit last year have been replaced, Mandell thinks this year's coverage could be "as good or better" than the 2011 squad.

Mandell has to be prepared to be a part of that unit.

I'm really confident," he said. "I go through my tackling drills every day with our entire special-teams unit, and Cade (placekicker Cade Foster) played linebacker in high school so hearing what he says about my tackling form is really helping me improve on it."

Last year he assisted on a tackle on a punt return by LSU.

Punting in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium means punting under the giant Jumbotron. Mandell didn't hit it during the game, but he took his shot in pre-game warm-ups. "I told my dad I was going to kick at it one time, and that's what I did." His first full punt nailed it.

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