Notre Dame punter, Tuscaloosa native Jay Bramblett punting against Alabama

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Jay Bramblett was living the dream of a high football player in Tuscaloosa. He was starter at Hillcrest, where his father was the defensive coordinator, and working his way up to being ranked as the top punter in the class of 2019. Alabama was recruiting him, as his father Mike put it, “like you wouldn’t believe.”

There was one problem.  The recruitment was unlikely to end with a scholarship offer.

Alabama signed Skyler DeLong for its 2018 class, leaving little room for a scholarship punter in 2019. Bramblett jumped on an offer from Notre Dame and became its starting punter as a freshman. He’ll have those duties in the College Football Playoff Semifinal against No. 1 Alabama (11-0) on  Friday (3 p.m., ESPN) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The sophomore is averaging 42.3 yards per punt this season for the No. 4 Irish (10-1).

“He’s had a big following for people around Tuscaloosa all year, but this one is probably a little special and he’ll probably be a little extra motivated to perform well in this one, knowing the spotlight’s a little brighter,” said Hillcrest coach Sam Adams.

Mike Bramblett, who is now head coach at Brookwood, sent two sons to UA before Jay: the oldest Bramblett son, Bradley, was a football student assistant under Lane Kiffin and Doug Nussmeier, and the middle son, Geoffrey, was a pitcher for the baseball team. If Alabama had a scholarship slotted for a punter in the 2019 class, Jay Bramblett likely would’ve been the third.

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Alabama was not alone in its heavy but sans scholarship recruiting of Jay Bramblett: LSU, Mississippi State and Arkansas all expressed interest, and Missouri was able to throw a scholarship on top. But Notre Dame came calling, quickly identifying Jay Bramblett as its preferred punter and securing a visit from him.

“I told Jay when we left South Bend that day, if you tell them you want to wait and they have to go offer somebody else, you need to understand you’ll be the only punter in the United States of America that will say maybe to the University of Notre Dame,” Mike Bramblett said.

Jay Bramblett was sold on the experience of Notre Dame, football and academics alike, and had made up his mind. The family alerted Alabama of his upcoming commitment and warned the Crimson Tide there would be no last-minute flip, even if a scholarship came available.

“That was the boat he was in: he was good enough to punt at most places in the country, we were just trying to find a place that had a scholarship available and was a good fit for him,” Adams said. “Notre Dame checked all the boxes.”

Jay Bramblett made good on his potential immediately in South Bend: he averaged just under 40 yards per punt as a freshman, taking all 63 of Notre Dame’s attempts.

He struggled the first two games of the season, averaging 38.6 yards, but in the ACC Championship Game against Clemson five of his six punts travelled at least 46 yards.

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“He’s kind of gotten in a rhythm with what he does and been able to work out a couple of mechanical things he has issues with earlier in the year,” Mike Bramblett said. “He’s feeling really good right now. He’s gone through some struggles a little bit, trying to get back to the form and technique that he’s most comfortable with it.”

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