The Spring Prospectus is a daily series taking a quick look at each position group before UA beings spring practice. This list of position groups will be updated with links as each one posts: quarterback, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, inside linebackers, outside linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties.
Alabama’s special teams hit all points of the spectrum in its 2019 football season.
There was the consistently great Jaylen Waddle — the first and only FBS punt returner of the decade to average 24 yards per punt return for an entire season. The punting unit was on the opposite extreme, one of just 30 FBS teams last year to average fewer than 40 yards per punt. Place kicking and kick return fell somewhere in between, place kicking marred with inconsistencies and kick return experiencing its fair share of booms and busts.
Looking forward to 2020, all of those units return enough to expect improvement.
Top returners: Waddle, kickers Will Reichard and Joseph Bulovas and punters Ty Perine and Skyler DeLong.
Losses: Henry Ruggs III (12 kickoff returns for 286 yards), Trevon Diggs (six kickoff returns for 117 yards), Mike Bernier (punted in the Citrus Bowl win over Michigan).
Returning depth: Brian Robinson Jr., three kickoff returns for 26 yards.
Waddle is close to historic territory as a UA punt returner: his 487 yards last season were fourth-most in school history, and if he does it again he’ll join Javier Arenas as the only UA player to go for 400 punt return yards in two seasons.
Perine made UA’s punting numbers much better just by crashing the scene as a walk-on midway through the season. There is optimism for a full season of work from him if he wins the job.
The same can be said for Reichard, who could both kick and punt for UA once healthy from the hip flexor injury that robbed him of most of his freshman season. Reichard will not be alone in the competition for playing time at kicker, however: Bulovas had to wear the miss at the end of the Iron Bowl, but he had made his last five field goals and seven of his nine attempts before that miss.
Those units will experience continuity in the return of long snapper Thomas Fletcher for his senior season.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson