Neck-and-neck at placekicker

One of the key questions heading into fall camp was at placekicker. Who will handle the duty still remains to be decided, but Bama's coaches aren't worried about the outcome.

In Monday's scrimmage work, Kyle Robinson and Brian Bostick combined to go a perfect 7-of-7 on field goal attempts. Each player had a long of 47 yards. Freshman Jamie Christensen was 1-of-2, hitting from 29 yards.

The job of choosing between the two main contenders falls to Special Teams Coordinator Dave Ungerer. "Kyle probably had the best day at the scrimmage," Ungerer said. "He looked good against a live rush. But Brian also played well."

The very next day following practice, Head Coach Mike Shula had praise for Bostick. "Brian has had a nice couple of days. He's been kicking off and kicking field goals."

Gabe Giardina (#8) holds the football with Brian Bostick (#22) at left.

Playing in eight games last season, Bostick scored 22 total points on 6-of-8 field goal tries and 4-of-5 extra points.

Midway through the year, Robinson took over the placekicking job. He finished with 41 points to lead the kickers in scoring. Robinson was 23-of-24 on PATs and 6-of-10 on field goals.

As a squad, the Tide went 18-for-28 on field goal attempts, for a .643 percentage. "I feel like some fans are worried," Robinson acknowledged. "But if you look at our numbers overall last season, overall we had a good year."

It's possible to argue Robinson's point, but the fact remains that Bama's coaches were not satisfied. After studying film and assessing available talent at the position, the decision was made to shake things up.

Several returning placekickers, including Michael Ziifle, Mike McLaughlin, Alex Fox, Josh Woodard and others, were left off the 105 early-reporting roster. Along with Bostick and Robinson, newcomer Jamie Christensen was invited to fall camp. Senior Gabe Giardina joined them, but his forte' appears to be as a holder.

Jamie Christensen

According to Shula, in a normal year he would only bring in two placekickers early. "We had a few kickers to choose from, but we felt like we needed to shake things up a bit," Shula explained. "We brought the young guys in to stir up the position. It's possible that someone could come in late on the job."

Competition tends to bring out the best in everyone, and that appears to be the case at placekicker. Both Robinson and Bostick are having a very good fall camp.

"Going into 2003, I think we've got two guys that can play," Robinson said. "We're getting better every year. I know my leg is stronger.

"I've been working hard all summer lifting weights. I'm confident I can hit from long-range."

Obviously the players kick each practice, with a student assistant nearby to chart every result. And the coaches have other tricks up their sleeve. Shula explained, "We're working to put more pressure on the contenders in practice, having them kick in front of the whole team. That position has not yet solidified."

Robinson probably holds a very slight lead at this point, but that could easily change.

"Both punter and placekicker remain pretty much open," Shula continued. "Those two positions will possibly be the last decisions made in camp."

Aside from field goals, fans also wonder about kickoff duties.

The ideal solution is to boom the ball through the endzone, preventing even the possibility of a return. But athletes capable of doing that on a consistent basis are hard to find. So far Ungerer has had praise for both Bostick and punter/kicker Jeff Aul in the role.

"I'm trying to set the tone for our kickoff unit," Bostick said. "We want those 10 other guys flying down the field."

Whether the final decision is made late or early, it appears Alabama will end up with a capable kicker. Best of all, more than one man can handle the job.

"I don't think that anybody should be worried," Bostick said. "We've got two good kickers. I think either of us could be starting somewhere else."

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