Special Things Happen In Spring

Everything is connected. For instance, last year the weakness of Alabama special teams was kickoff coverage. Fortunately, even when Bama's coverage team allowed good field position for opponents, the nation's best defensive team was there to make sure it wasn't exploited.

Alabama resumes spring football practice Monday, the second of 15 practices. The first practice was prior to the start of The University's spring break that began following the practice on March 12. Classes resume Monday. Spring training will continue until the A-Day Game on April 17 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Admission is free and the event will be televised nationally by ESPN with kickoff scheduled at 2 p.m. CDT.

It is no secret that aspects of Alabama special teams will have new personnel in 2010. It is also possible that some who are not yet in practice (newcomers who arrive for August camp) will be a part of special teams.

The concept that must be understood is that Bama Coach Nick Saban and his staff will work on special teams every day this spring, attempting to find the very best players for every position on every team (punt, punt coverage, kickoff return, kickoff coverage, extra point-field goal, etc.) in the spring, and then continue the process in fall camp.

As for the names that are known and gone:

Alabama lost two All-America players in the kicking game, placekicker Leigh Tiffin and return specialist Javier Arenas. The Tide also graduated four-year punter P.J. Fitzgerald (who has also been the holder on field goals and extra points) and three-year snapper Brian Selman.

Alabama's athletics department has not yet provided reporters with a depth chart. For good reason: there isn't one.

A guess can be made that junior Carson Tinker, the back-up long snapper the past two years, is in the mix for that job.

We know that Julio Jones took Arenas' place as punt return man last year when Arenas was out. Jones had five returns for 75 yards, which is a fine 15 yards-per average. Jones and Trent Richardson are the only Tiders who have returned kickoffs, one each.

Soph Jeremy Shelley, a walk-on placekicker, returns for the Tide and was Bama's 15th-leading scorer last year. While Tiffin was Bama's leading scorer with 125 points, Shelley had one point,an extra point kick. He missed his only field goal try. Colin Galager, a senior walk-on, may also still be working.

The Tide has one newcomer, a scholarshipped placekicker in Cade Foster. Foster's highlight films indicate he has a very strong leg, though not as accurate as might be needed to be what Saban calls a "sniper," a player who can make field goals.

The only punter whose name has emerged as possibly in camp is redshirt freshman Sam Buckingham. Jay Williams is a signee who will arrive in the summer.

Generally speaking, the team is looking for speed on coverage and return teams, and Alabama looks to have a very fast team. The process of finding all the pieces to the kicking game puzzle continues Monday and will continue up to and, if necessary, beyond the San Jose State game to open the 2010 season on September 4.

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