Youngsters Will Play Big Special Teams Role

The Alabama football team will have two true freshmen back to return kickoffs, and junior cornerback Simeon Castille to return punts, Crimson Tide Special Teams Coordinator Dave Ungerer said Tuesday.

At least that's how it will start. Cornerback Javier Arenas and running back Terry Grant will be on the return team. Both are fast and have shown a great deal of explosiveness since joining the Crimson Tide squad in August.

"We're kind of rolling the dice there but we think they are our best returners," Ungerer said.

Ungerer also said, "I'm really hoping to get Javier Arenas" in a punt return capacity at some point.

Placekicker Jamie Christensen, who has been out for two weeks with a groin injury, was supposed to try a full kick for the first time since his injury on Tuesday afternoon.

"The problem is the injury is right in a spot where he generates a lot of power," Ungerer said.

Freshman Leigh Tiffin would be the back-up placekicker, and likely the kickoff, too, if Christensen is not able to return for the first game.

"We have to make sure he's okay," Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula said. "If he's not ready, he's not ready."

Ungerer said to look for Marquis Johnson, Chris Rogers, Darren Mustin, Zach Schreiber, Eryk Anders, Cory Reamer, Terry Grant, Ali Sharrief, Roy Upchurch and possibly Sam Burnthall among players on the kickoff coverage units.

Last year Rashad Johnson was Alabama's best coverage man. This year he's more likely to see action on the defense at safety. Ungerer said he's not ready to give up Johnson as a special teams standout, but "We're going to have to watch his number of plays and how his body holds up," he said. "If he's playing a tremendous amount we'll have to pick our spots."

Le'Ron McClain will be the personal protector (the guy who stands a few yards in front of the punter) on punts.

BamaMag Top Stories