Football Fight: Placekicker

There are defining moments in football. It may be something as enduring as "The Goalline Stand," that was instrumental in Alabama's 1978 national championship. In a season it can be something like Roman Harper's crunching hit on a Tennessee fullback, forcing a fumble and giving Bama the opportunity to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Those moments aren't necessarily the game-winning plays. A field goal as time expires, or close to it, for the winning points has a special place. In Alabama's 10-2 season in 2005, the Crimson Tide had one three-point loss (in overtime to LSU) and three three-point wins. Each of those three-point victories could have been headed to overtime games but for the sure foot of Jamie Christensen.

Christensen, a walk-on sophomore last year, will be a scholarshipped junior this season. Coach Mike Shula announced this week that Christensen and safety Rashad Johnson had been awarded battlefield commission scholarships.

Alabama was tied 10-10 with Ole Miss in Oxford last fall when Christensen connected on a 31-yard field goal as time expired.

The next week, against Tennessee in Tuscaloosa, Christensen was good on a 34-yard field goal with 13 seconds to play to give the Tide a 6-3 win.

And in the Cotton Bowl against Texas Tech, Christensen managed his longest ever, a 45-yarder that went helicopter-like (rather than end-over-end) as time expired for a 13-10 Tide victory.

As anyone who follows Alabama football probably knows, Christensen's teammates call him "Money," as in his kicks being like money in the bank.

Christensen, who was redshirted in 2003, was Bama's kickoff man as a freshman in 2004 before assuming field goal and extra point duties to go with kickoffs last season. Last year he was good on 16 of 25 field goals and 25 of 26 extra points for 73 points, leading Alabama in scoring. He was good on all four of his field goal tries from under 30 yards, 8-13 between 30-40 yards, 4-7 on 40-50, and missed his only try from beyond 50 yards.

He became the first kicker in Alabama history to win back-to-back games with field goals and the first to win three games in a season with field goals. He scored a career high 13 points in the Tide's 37-14 win at South Carolina. Of his 50 kickoffs, 14 went for touchbacks. (In 2004 he had 24 touchbacks in 62 kickoffs).

The only people who might suspect Christensen would not be Alabama's placekicker in 2006 are those competing against him for the job.

Redshirt freshman Andrew Friedman was highly-regarded as a prep star and he is listed number two for all placekicking chores. Like Christensen, Friedman came to Bama as a walk-on.

A familiar name will join the ranks of the placekicking candidates this fall, and he might have a leg up with the Crimson Tide head coach. That's because Leigh Tiffin is the son of legendary kicker Van Tiffin, a teammate of Shula and -- like the goalline stand and Harper's forced fumble -- immortalized by sports artist Daniel Moore for "The Kick." Van Tiffin was good on a 52-yard field goal on the final play of the 1985 Auburn game to give the Crimson Tide a dramatic 25-23 win.

Tiffin was not expected to be in the 105 who report Monday. It would be no surprise if there are not other walk-on placekickers.

Editor's Note: This is one in a summer series in which we have examined the Crimson Tide football depth chart position-by-position.


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