|TideSports College Football Preview|
Position coach: Joe Pannunzio (fourth season), Burton Burns (11th season)
Returning starter: JK Scott, Trevon Diggs, Xavian Marks
Starter lost: Adam Griffith, Cole Mazza, ArDarius Stewart
The biggest question will be how Alabama replaces kicker Adam Griffith. Redshirt senior Andy Pappanastos was used on six PATs in blowouts last year and converted all six. He also made a 33-yard field goal against Chattanooga. Freshman arrival Joseph Bulovas will also compete for the job. He was 68-76 on PATs and 11-25 on field goals in his high school career. Scott will remain a weapon in the punting game that Alabama can rely on.
Trevon Diggs returned 13 punts and seven kickoffs last year, most of any returning player. Xavian Marks, Joshua Jacobs and some of Alabama’s freshman receivers might also get a chance to contribute in the return game.
Newcomer to watch
Thomas Fletcher will be expected to handle the long snapping duties after four-year starter Cole Mazza exhausted his eligibility. Fletcher played at IMG Academy last season and has been at Alabama since spring. He was as highly ranked as a long snapper can be and played in the 2017 Army All-American Bowl. Mazza delivered all 583 snaps successfully during his career.
You need to know
Joe Pannunzio is in his first year as Alabama’s special teams coordinator and tight ends coach, but his role may change after this year. The NCAA approved the addition of a 10th on-field assistant to coaching staffs beginning on Jan. 9, 2018 (the national championship game is on Jan. 8). Nick Saban has long lobbied for the addition of a 10th assistant, in part to bolster special teams coaching.
Alabama fans might have a queasy feeling about the kicking situation for the first few games, but the rest of the unit looks strong. Scott is one of the best players at his position on the team. There’s enough talent and depth that coverage teams should be strong, and the return units will probably be asked to set up the offense more than supply big plays.
JK Scott remains Alabama’s leader in career punting average by a significant margin. He has averaged 46.3 yards per punt over his first three years; the next closest was Greg Gantt’s 43.6-yard average.
“It’s one thing to go out there and kick field goals on air. It’s another thing when there are 11 guys rushing and a lot of stuff happening around you.”
— Nick Saban
— Nick Saban