EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the ninth installment in a series looking ahead to the start of Alabama football fall practice. Today, we look at the special teams.
Nothing gets Alabama fans riled up more than talking about special teams. It’s been a touchy subject the past few seasons.
Sophomore Jaylen Waddle will be back deep to field punts after winning the job last season, averaging 14.6 yards per return with a touchdown. Trevon Diggs is a solid backup. He was the starter as a sophomore but gave way to Waddle last season and was out for part of the year with a season-ending injury.
Josh Jacobs departed for the NFL, which leaves a spot open on kickoff returns. Brian Robinson was on the other side of Jacobs last season, and Henry Ruggs III as in the mix as well.
Skyler DeLong was the starter last season but after some shaky attempts midway through the season, Mike Bernier took over the rest of the way. DeLong returns as a sophomore looking to redeem himself and reclaim the starting spot.
Joseph Bulovas connected on 14 of 18 field goal attempts last season but he, along with Austin Jones, combined for 83 of 92 PATs, further adding to the special teams’ inconsistency in 2018. He hit a long of 49 yards and was 7 of 8 between 20 and 29 yards. Bulovas will also be back to handle the kickoff duties.
Thomas Fletcher will again serve as the long snapper on punts and field goals while backup quarterback Mac Jones will be in as holder.
Looking to give Bulovas a challenge at kicker is true freshman Will Reichard of Hoover. The top kicking prospect in the 2019 signing class made 27 of 31 field goal attempts in his high school career and was perfect on PATs. He’s also a top-ranked punter. At the 2019 Kohl’s Kicking Class he was selected as the top kicker and the No. 2 punter.
In UA’s spring game, Reichard made a 43-yard field goal.
The addition of Reichard will make for a big position battle with Bulovas for the kicker spot. Alabama appears in good hands in the return department, especially with a healthy Diggs back. Punting will be a position to keep an eye on. DeLong is trying to put his struggles behind him and did have a good A-Day effort, punting four times for an average of 47.5 yards with a long of 54.