Alabama placekicker Adam Griffith was the unfortunate victim of that 2013 disaster at Auburn when his long field goal try came up short and the Tigers returned it for a game-winning touchdown on the final play of the game.
Last year he became the Crimson Tide’s primary placekicker, but was plagued during the season with back spasms that limited his effectiveness on long field goal tries and on kickoffs. Earlier this week Bama Coach Nick Saban said that he has confidence in Griffith as the Tide is in final preparation for the 2015 season.
Alabama will meet Wisconsin Saturday at the Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington, Texas. ABC will televise the game beginning at 7 p.m. CDT.
Griffith, who was born in Poland but adopted by parents in Calhoun, Ga., is a junior who has a record of 12-19 on field goal attempts and 58-59 on extra points. He has a career average of 61.7 yards on kickoffs with 24 career touchbacks. His longest made field goal at Bama is 47 yards.
Griffith said that he feels confident going into the 2015 season. He admits that his back problems “never go away,” and that he is not 100 per cent, but that he is following a strict regimen to prevent a recurrence of last season. “We’re doing everything I can to prevent getting hurt again, so I have a totally different workout, different back exercises. I’m doing rehab twice a week and stretches, and flexibility.
“It’s better,” he said. “It’s a lot better than last year.”
Griffith, who was rated the nation’s No. 1 placekicker prospect by Scout.com in 2011, said that he didn’t begin to have problems until midway through last season. “My confidence went down,” he admitted. “I couldn’t kick very good or very much.”
Not kicking very much may be an important piece to the puzzle of Griffith’s recovery.
He said prior to last season, “I kicked way too much in camp, in summer, and during the season during the week.”
Griffith said he has gotten good tips from Bama’s All-America punter, JK Scott. “He knows more about flexibility, nutrition, stuff like that. I’ve been listening to him and he’s been helping me a lot.” The two of them do pilates (a form of exercise for core strengthening) during their workouts.
Something else he learned from Scott was to not kick too much. “He doesn’t do a lot and he’s always fresh,” Griffith said.
Now, Griffith said, “On the days I don’t have to kick with the team, I don’t kick at all. I just get extra treatment, get in the hot tub/cold tub. On the days I have to kick, I just get at least five or 10 kicks and go into my period and I’m good. I’m not kicking as much, because really I don’t need to. Then if I feel pretty good I’ll go back outside and do some drills without kicking the ball. So that’s basically my off day.”
It was suggested that maybe on those days his teammates hated him.
“Probably, yeah,” Griffith said. “Most of them do.”
As for preseason work this year, Griffith said he thinks he has gotten better on kickoffs – direction, height, and distance -- and field goals. He said he thinks he should make every field goal from perhaps 45 yards in and that he has confidence from about 55 yards in. He said his longest was a 75-yard field goal in practice in high school.
“That’s probably when my back started hurting, because I started kicking those long field goals,” he said.
Saban has tried to give Griffith pointers. “Coach always brings golf into it,” Griffith said. “I really don’t get it. I mean, he might be right. I don’t play golf, so I don’t know. I can understand when you try to swing too hard you’ll shank it. So that relates. But everything else, I really don’t get it.”
Griffith said he doesn’t remember how he felt starting the 2014 season, but thinks it was probably the same as this year. “Maybe a little bit better this year.”
That sounds like it would be satisfactory. Griffith opened the season with a 4-4 performance on field goals, making from 47 yards, 41 yards, 27 yards, and 45 yards, and thus becoming the first Alabama placekicker to make three field goals of over 40 yards in one game.
His biggest wasn’t his longest. He made a 27-yard field goal at LSU last year to send the game to overtime, where Bama defeated the Tigers, 20-13.
The other specialists in placekicking are snapper Cole Mazza and holder Cooper Bateman, and Griffith has high praise for both. He said Mazza “really zips it back there,” and that Bateman has gotten better and better. “He’s a good holder. I try to get with him to work every day, but it’s kind of hard because he’s competing for the quarterback spot.”