Fitzgerald Pleased To Not Punt

How can a football player be satisfied when he spends almost the entire game on the bench? When he's the punter. But there's a kicker (groan). Alabama's punter gets to hold on placekicks, and he prefers having a lot more extra point holds than punts.

P.J. Fitzgerald was called on to punt for Alabama only one time last week in the Crimson Tide's 53-7 win over North Texas. On the flip side, Fitzgerald was in the game holding for extra points after seven Bama touchdowns and on two field goals by Leigh Tiffin.

"If I'm not punting, that means the offense is doing great," said Fitzgerald, a senior from Coral Springs, Fla. "I like to play, but if I'm holding on a lot of extra points it's a good day."

Fitzgerald's one punt against North Texas was a long boomer, 49 yards officially and a few yards further, into the end zone.

As a sophomore and junior he punted against Western Kentucky—one time in two games. Last year Bama didn't punt against Western Kentucky.

Fitzgerald has often been noted for his punting. As a freshman he wasn't too good, averaging only 34.8 yards on 57 punts. But he's gotten better every year. As a sophomore he averaged 36.5 on 64 boots and last year averaged 37.1 on 59 kicks.

This year Fitzgerald has punted nine times and is averaging 44.7 yards per punt. That's almost 10 yards longer than his average punt as a freshman.

He said it's a matter of experience and working hard. He isn't kicking as "hard" as he did formerly. His kicks are technically better, though. "If you get it to turn over, you are doing it right," he said. "I learn more about being a punter every day." Three of his nine punts this year have been downed inside the opponents' 20-yard line, which is a good number. And Tide opponents average only 1.6 yards per return.

Fitzgerald ranks second in the Southeastern Conference to Georgia's Drew Butler, the son of legendary Bulldogs placekicker Kevin Butler. Fitzgerald caught Butler, who is averaging 54.5 yards per punt, in a television game. "I thought ‘What's he eating?' Fitzgerald said. "I want some of that."

Fitzgerald doesn't have an explanation for Leigh Tiffin's two missed extra point kicks against North Texas. "It was just one of those days," Fitzgerald said. "He hit the first one good, but it just missed, and didn't hit the second one good. But I don't worry about Leigh. He's the best I've ever been around."

Fitzgerald said he had to get used to being a punter when he came to Alabama. In high school he was his team's quarterback. Can he throw? "We ran a Wing-T," he said. "I threw some deep passes." He smiled.

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