April 27, 2008

Spring review: Special teams

BamaOnLine.com completes its review of Alabama's spring football practice with a look at the special teams.




First up
NameYearSize2007 season
K Leigh TiffinJr.6-1, 20025 of 34 on FGs, perfect on PATs (36 of 36)
P P.J. FitzgeraldJr.5-11, 19438.7 avg., 20 of 64 downed inside 20
KOR Javier ArenasJr.5-9, 19724.3 yd. avg, long of 62 vs. Tennessee
PR Javier ArenasJr.5-9, 19715.4 yd. avg., long of 69
Next up
NameYearSize2007 season
K Corey SmithFr.6-0, 195High school
P Heath ThomasJr.6-3, 213Did not punt
KR Jonathan LoweSr.5-7, 18514 KO returns for 19.8 yd. avg.
PR Jonathan LoweSr.5-7, 1854 returns, 12.8 avg. while Arenas was hurt

































Good to see: Tiffin appeared to pick up where he left off last season, which is to say the junior-to-be steadily improves. By UA-kept statistics, Tiffin converted 5 of 7 field-goal tries over three spring scrimmages, including a 51-yarder. His 44-yarder on A-Day had about 10 yards of distance to spare.

Although the return game doesn't include live hitting in scrimmage work, it was obvious that the burst Arenas lost to a high ankle sprain late last season has completely returned.


Need to see more of: UA stats showed 15 Fitzgerald punts over three scrimmages for a 43.2-yard average, significantly better than his in-season track record. Still, the occasional shank is something he'll need to eliminate in order to consistently help an inexperienced defense with field position. Thomas' sub-40 yd. averages in three consecutive scrimmages did little to push the veteran.

Assumptions that Smith would compete with Fitzgerald in the spring were apparently pre-mature. The early-enrolling freshman kicked field goals with Tiffin (3 of 5) and, according to statistics, never punted once in a scrimmage.


Overall: All the things that made up Alabama's special teams a year ago - for better or worse - return intact. An explosive return game is the obvious positive, along with Tiffin's field-goal reliability, but a distance problem on both punts and kickoffs prevents special teams from being an across-the-board strength.



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