You just can’t satisfy Alabama football fans.
When the Crimson Tide was winning national championships this past decade with No. 1-ranked defensive units, there were still grumblings about the offense not moving the ball with the ease like other high-powered offenses of the day.
Now that Alabama’s offense is among the best in the nation, scoring touchdowns on every 10th play, Crimson Tide fans are chirping about the defense not dominating and imposing its will on opponents like days of old.
One gripe that always seems constant, however, is special teams.
This season is no different. Alabama’s kicking game has been a sore spot for fans and even head coach Nick Saban, who addressed the punting situation Wednesday.
“It’s not been what we’d like for it to be,” Saban said. “We need to develop a little bit more consistency at the position.”
The punting numbers – a 35.5 average that ranks 113th out of 130 in the nation – tell a story, but not the whole story.
JK Scott is the gold standard for Alabama punting. The current Green Bay Packers punter averaged 43 yards per kick his senior year in 2017 with 17 of his 54 kicks going for 50 yards or more. He punted twice or less in five games.
Through five games in 2019, Alabama just has not done a lot of punting. The 11 total punts average out to about two per game. Just 10 other teams in the FBS have 11 or fewer punts. One of those 11 Alabama punts was a 14-yard shank against South Carolina (the only punt of the game), which skews the average a bit.
Also, two of those punts were shorter because Alabama was trying to pin opponents inside the 20-yard line.
Still, with Alabama on pace to punt just 26 times this season, every punt matters.
“These guys are very capable,” Saban said of Skyler DeLong and Will Reichard. “I just think they’ve got to be able to execute when it’s game time and go out there and do a little bit better job for us, which we certainly feel they’re capable of.
“There has been competition at the position.”
Punt return is also a point of interest this season. Jaylen Waddle has been solid this season, averaging just over 17 yards per return. Twice he almost broke returns for touchdowns last week against Ole Miss. He also muffed a return and Ole Miss recovered and scored a few plays later.
“You have to get possession of the ball when they are punting the ball to us,” Saban said after the Ole Miss game. “That’s the number one thing. That’s a big field position change when you muff a punt. That’s something we’ll continue to work on. It hasn’t been a problem in the past and the guys that we have have done a real good job of fielding the ball.”
Reach Edwin Stanton at firstname.lastname@example.org, 205-722-0226 or viat Twitter, @edwinstantonu2