Crimson Tide Punters

The Alabama football team should feel comfortable about its punting situation for the 2004 season, with the top two punters from a year ago back and one newcomer that could challenge for the job.

Bo Freelend was a strong-legged if inconsistent punter for Alabama in 2003. The senior from Eutaw, Alabama averaged 40.8 yards per punt (73 punts, 2976 yards), and is expected to win the punting job this season. Freelend exhibited a booming leg at times last year, but showed a tendency to shank punts at times.

Freelend showed signs of improvement toward the end of 2003, averaging 43.2 yards (14 punts, 605 yards) in his last two contests. He continued his goal of improved consistency through the past spring, making Coach Shula fairly comfortable with the Alabama's punt game entering the year.

"I thought Bo continued to get better toward the end of last year, and was real consistent during the course of spring," Shula said following the conclusion of spring ball. "Hopefully that will continue." Freelend was a preseason third-team All-SEC selection by the league's coaches.

Junior Jeremy Schatz, a 5-7, 151-pound junior from Homewood, pushed Freelend in practice for the punting duties early in the 2003 campaign, but remained in a back-up role throughout the season.

Some predicted Patrick Eades to take the punting duties from Freelend, but a car accident just before the beginning of spring practice resulted in a broken hip (among other injuries) for Eades and sidelined him for the spring. Eades is not expected to report with the 105-man squad on August 9, but he could possibly return to the field when school starts later in August and contend for the job.

Cullman native Joseph McPhillips, who played several positions in high school, will be an invited walk-on reporting on August 9. He will be Freelend's main competition for the punter's spot. Jeff Aul, a sophomore from Daleville, will also contend for the punting position this year.

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