Some Things About Football Are Special

He’s struggled at times this season, but Alabama placekicker Adam Griffith may be turning a corner, despite still battling nagging injuries. The redshirt sophomore has connected on 12-of-19 field goals and missed but one point after touchdown kick. Some of those misses can be attributed to one old and one new injury.

Alabama will need all players at their best Thursday in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl game against Ohio State. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. CST with television coverage by ESPN. Bama and the Buckeyes are both 12-1 on the season. The winner of this game advances to the national championship game Jan. 12 in Dallas.

“Health-wise, I’m feeling a little bit better, but I’m not 100 per cent,” Griffith said Tuesday at Alabama’s Media Day session in the Superdome. “My back (which had a slight fracture in the lower portion) is still bothering me, but hopefully it’ll get a little better for this game. Also, I rolled my ankle in the pre-game at the SEC (title) game. It’s not really better yet.”

Accuracy-wise, Griffith says in recent days he’s done “better. I kicked real good yesterday.”

Tide Coach Nick Saban noticed. “I think (Griffith’s) done as well as he has since early in the season, and really has kicked the ball well. He doesn’t seem to be having some of the issues that he had… in the second half of the season. We’re encouraged by his (recent practice) performance, and happy with where he is right now.”

“He looked great yesterday. He didn’t miss a field goal the whole practice,” said Griffith’s holder, Cooper Bateman. “He looked great, and I feel great about him.”

Bateman said Griffith has persevered through both on-field struggles and off-field injuries, but “his emotions never change. He’s on an even keel. With all the injuries he’s gone through, and he has gone through a lot of pain, he’s missed a few kicks here and there, but his emotions never change on the sidelines. You’ve got to respect him for that.”

Griffith and Bateman seem to have developed great chemistry. “Cooper is definitely the best holder we’ve got here,” Griffith said. “I feel comfortable with him. We work after practice, all the time, so I got in a rhythm (with Bateman),and I got more consistent. Anytime there’s something (wrong) with the hold, I can tell him, and he’ll fix it right away.”

Griffith is pretty happy the Sugar Bowl is played indoors. “I’d rather play indoors. There’s a lot of difference,” he pointed out, “because indoors, there’s no wind. The turf is a little different, because it grips a little harder when you plant.”

Freshman punter JK Scott has had a spectacular first year at The Capstone. He said as far as doing his job, it makes no difference whether he’s punting indoors (like at the Superdome) or out. “It doesn’t really matter,” said Scott. “I like to punt in both. Indoors, there’s no variables. There’s no wind. There’s nothing that can affect you, so you tend to be more consistent. It tends to be easier to punt indoors.”

Scott, a Ray Guy Award nominee who has averaged 47 yards with a 45.4 net, has been understandably encouraged by his freshman season. “I think it’s been a pretty good year. It’s been a lot of fun, so far,” he said. “I’ve just been perfecting my craft, and just moving along in my progress.”

Scott reiterated something he touched on after the SEC title game about the workout secret to his punting success: “Pilates,” he said. “Pilates helped me tremendously, in core strength. It’s helped definitely improve my game, for sure.”

Backup punter (and quarterback) Alec Morris said watching Scott boom the football high and long “crushes your soul.” He said it jokingly, but it may well describe how opponents feel when they start drives inside their 10 or Scott simply flips the field.

“He’s definitely had an outstanding freshman year,” said snapper Cole Mazza of his punter. “He’s a great punter. He works hard. He definitely has every bit of the talent he works for, and he’s a great kid to be around, and to work with. In the meetings, he’s kind of an upbeat kid. He has a lot of energy. He just likes to punt. That’s his thing. That’s his calling card, and I think he’s great at it.”

“I think JK’s handled it very well,” said Saban of the pressures of playing in a top-flight program as a true freshman. “He’s been able to (punt) with a relative amount of consistency throughout the season.”

Scott has downed 26 of his 48 punts inside the 20. “Having great specialists is a key to being able to control vertical field position,” Saban noted “ That’s an important part of what special teams does for you. JK has certainly impacted that, as well as anybody could, in terms of the job he’s done as a punter. He’s certainly started to develop a reputation as being one of the best guys in the country, and being one of the best punters in Alabama history, really.”

Punt returner Christion Jones (17 returns, 8.4 yard average) said he is not fazed very much by the indoor/outdoor differences. However, he did point out, “It’s easier to catch balls in a dome. You don’t have to deal with wind, like when you’re outside, in the weather.”

Jones feels he’s gotten better at returns, kickoff and punt-wise, during his four-year tenure in Tuscaloosa. “I think I’ve improved on patience,” he said, “and getting confidence in myself. Understanding the (return) game a little bit more.”

Once Jones leaves after the next game or two, he has an idea who his successor may be deep on kick-offs. “Ardarius Stewart. I hope so,” said Jones. “I think he can be special. I hope they’ll be able to use him wherever it’s possible, and give him a lot of opportunities to make plays.”

Redshirt freshman Stewart said that, for now, he’s concentrating on kickoff returns more so than punts. “I’m back there taking reps, just as well as (Christion Jones) is,” Stewart said. “I believe I’m the next guy to step up.”

As a freshman returner (and receiver), Stewart said, “I’ve learned how fast the game is moving, and that you’ve got to be disciplined on the field. You have to make sure you see every call, and every aspect of the game. You’ve got to just that you know that you’ve got it down pat. That comes with practice, and when you practice, it makes perfect.”

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