The performance of the various punters that Alabama trotted out during spring practice was nothing short of horrific. The good news, though, like I wrote following the game, was that in reality none of those punters were likely ever going to see the field this Fall. For better or for worse, it was always going to be a battle between two true freshmen, Jay Williams and Cody Mandell.
Williams is a relatively well known commodity. He is on scholarship and was an official member of the 2010 recruiting class. As such, most people consider him the leading candidate to be the starting punter in 2010.
Mandell, however, is largely unknown, but even so he has much of the same credentials as Williams. Coming out of Lafayette, Louisiana, Mandell was an All-State performer at Acadiana High School, averaging 41.3 yards per punt as a senior. Originally he committed to Tulane after receiving a scholarship offer and remained a Green Wave commitment for many months. As National Signing Day approached, however, he was not yet academically eligible so that offer fell through.
Enter Nick Saban. Mandell impressed at a camp in Tuscaloosa last year, and shortly after Signing Day passed Saban called him about walking on at Alabama. In early March, Mandell turned down scholarship offers to some other smaller schools, and instead decided to take a summer math course to become eligible and walk-on at Alabama. He made an A in the course, and is now enrolled at 'Bama.
With both kickers on campus, the coaching staff has made it relatively clear that it's a head-to-head battle between the two:
Mandell said that the punters have been told that it'll be a week-by-week competition.
"Whichever one is punting the best will punt that week," Mandell said.
Saban is well known for playing whoever he feels to be best with no other considerations going into the depth chart calculus, and that looks to be the case with these two players. It's going to be a fluid situation, and realistically it could change several times throughout the year.
Clearly it's a bit of a distressing thought, being totally reliant on two unproven true freshman punters to get the job done. Fortunately, the good news is that these two aren't random scrub walk-ons, both were pretty highly-regarded punting prospects coming out of the prep level, and if nothing else both have showed good leg strength and solid hang times. Both had pretty solid offer lists as offer lists for punters go. It's not an ideal situation by any stretch of the imagination, but hopefully by the time Penn State comes to town we can have a solid punting game in place.