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Special teams units a reservoir of experience for Alabama football in 2020

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Alabama’s special teams lived on the extremes in 2019. Jaylen Waddle led the nation in punt return yards, while its punters averaged fewer than 40 yards per punt through the first six games. Placekicking had ups and downs, as it has for years, while the kickoff coverage team was ranked fifth in the nation.

With more experience across the board in 2020, UA hopes to be good across the board.

Players: Senior long snapper Thomas Fletcher, junior wide receiver/returner Jaylen Waddle, sophomore punter/kicker Will Reichard, sophomore punter Ty Perine, junior punter Skyler DeLong, redshirt junior kicker Joseph Bulovas.

Alabama place kicker Joseph Bulovas (97) kicks off after Alabama place kicker Will Reichard (16) left the game during Alabama's 49-7 victory over Southern Miss Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 in Bryant-Denny Stadium. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

2019 stat: Waddle’s 487 punt return yards not only led the nation, it was more than any other FBS team had last season. Wyoming was second in the nation last year with 366 punt return yards.

Storyline: Alabama’s snapping and returning duties are locked up by Fletcher and Waddle. The kicking and punting, as they have been more times than not in recent years, are a mystery.

Reichard seemed to have a solid grip on UA’s placekicker job when the 2019 season started, granted the leash to miss 49- and 48-yard attempts in the season opener against Duke. After Reichard’s hip injury that kept him out of most of the final nine games, Bulovas stepped in and performed to the (admittedly, low) standard of recent UA kickers: Bulovas making 72.7% of his field goals was on par with each of the primary UA kickers of the previous four seasons, who all made between 71.9% and 77.8% of their kicks.

His late miss in the Iron Bowl soured the season’s work more than it otherwise would have.

Reichard could factor into the punting contest, as well, one that was won by walk-on Perine in the second half of the season, averaging 44.69 yards per punt over 13 attempts. If Perine had held that average over a full season with at least 47 punts, he would have ranked 18th nationally.

DeLong hopes to bounce back from a rough sophomore season in 2020 and regain the starting job.

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson