Stuart McNair

KNOW YOUR FOE - Alabama Special Teams

Although there is more to special teams than just the so-called specialists – punter, placekicker, snapper, return men – those are the areas typically examined in discussion of the kicking game.

Alabama has had consistency in its kicking game, in part because it has had essentially the same cast for three years – in junior punter JK Scott, senior placekicker Adam Griffith, and senior snapper Cole Mazza.

Alabama punter JK Scott was All-Southeastern Conference and  second team All-America this year by Walter Camp, American Football Coaches, and Sports Illustrated. Scott is averaging 47.7 yards per punt (third in the nation) on 46 attempts, has forced 11 fair catches, and dropped 17 punts inside the 20. Twenty-three of his 46 punts have traveled more than 50 yards, including six of 60 yards or more. His season-long boot of 66 yards came at LSU, with two traveling 63 yards at Ole Miss and Arkansas. He also had a 60-yarder vs. Texas A&M.

Scott is no stranger to accolades. As a freshman in 2014 he had the best punting average in Alabama history at 48 yards per punt and was first team All-America. He was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award in 2015.

He was ranked the number one punter prospect in the nation by Chris Sailer.

For his three-year career he has punted 125 times for a 45.9 average and 43 net average.

Crimson Tide placekicker Adam Griffith is an amazing story, an orphan in Poland who was adopted by a family in Georgia, and who won the Georgia state championship for his Calhoun team with a 32-yard field goal in overtime in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. He was ranked the number one placekicker in the nation by Scout.com and signed with Bama.

After a year as a backup kicker in 2013 (5-5 PAT, 1-3 FG), he has made 54 of 70 field goals with a long of 55 and 174 of 176 extra point kicks. He averages 62.5 yards per kickoff and about half his 271 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks.

As a senior, Griffith has made 19-26 field goals (long 48) and 59-60 extra points.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban thinks a snapper is important enough that he recruits and signs them to scholarships. How has that worked out. For the past three years, senior Cole Mazza has been the snapper for both punts and placekicks and he has been perfect.

Backup quarterback Cooper Bateman is the primary holder for field goals and extra point kicks.

Remember when we wrote of safety Eddie Jackson suffering a broken leg in the eighth game of the season in our discussion of Bama defensive backs? That injury also had an effect on Alabama’s kicking game. In fact, Jackson suffered his broken leg while returning a punt. Before being injured, Jackson returned 11 punts for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

Alabama has replaced Jackson with freshman Trevon Diggs, who returned 12 punts for a 10.6 yards per return average. Xavian Marks is also available. He has 5 returns for 105 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown runback.

On kickoff returns, Marks and Diggs have been used, but in recent games the Tide has settled on wide receivers ArDarius Stewart and Gehrig Dieter.

Alabama has been only average on punt and kickoff coverage, allowing 17 punt returns for an average of 12.1 per runback, and 48 kickoff returns for an average of 21.6 yards per return. 

Alabama Special Teams

Punter

JK Scott (6-6, 202,Jr.)

Placekicker

Adam Griffith (5-10, 191, Sr.)
Andy Pappanastos (5-11, 198, Jr.)

Snapper

Cole Mazza (6-2, 236,Sr.)

Punt Return

Trevon Diggs (6-2, 195, Fr.)
Xavian Marks (5-8, 166, So.)

Kickoff Return

Ardarius Stewart (6-1,204, Jr.)
Gehrig Dieter (6-3, 207, Sr.)

 

Historically, a number of Alabama players have earned their first playing time as members of the coverage and/or protection units in the kicking game. Return men for opposing teams would be wise to know the whereabouts of Bama freshman linebacker Mack Wilson (6-2, 244), who has made some spectacular tackles on kickoff coverage.


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