Now that OTS has y'all good and scared about the secondary, it's my turn to do the same about the kicking game. The most glaring stats from the one released over the weekend were the ones that weren't even there, namely the numbers for the kickers. Saban shed a little light on it, but for the most part it sounds like we are still searching and may see a rotation of situational kickers instead of a dedicated punter and place kicker like we had in Fitzgerald and Tiffin:
"I don’t know what we did on field goals, but we missed one long one, 52 or 53 yards, just missed, plenty long. We did a good job kicking off. (Jeremy) Shelly made two and missed two. He’s been really most consistent from 25 yard in. I think he’s missed only one in camp. Cade (Foster) has a really strong leg; just has to get a little more consistency on his accuracy. Both guys have talent. But they have to be able to take it to the game with consistency and confidence and that’s what we’re trying to develop situationally as we go through camp."
Right now the only kicker on the roster with game experience is sophomore walk on Jeremy Shelly, who got in late against Chattanooga to kick an extra point and miss a FG. The others? Well, there is hope:
"I think if you watch these guys punt in specialty before practice, you would say that ‘Man, where did you get those guys,’" Saban said. "But they’ve got to learn to take that to the game. They have to learn to take it when it’s live bullets come rushing at them and trying to stay with them. I think it is just going to be experience for them and confidence and trusting in the people that are blocking for them."
The heat is taking it's toll on fall camp, moving practice indoors twice last week and clearly having an effect on the team:
"We had so much better energy and body language and mental intensity (inside Friday). We practiced so much better," Saban said. "As soon as we get back out here, it's like, 'Woe is me.'
That's some discouraging news from a young team that is going to have to figure out how to work through adversity once the season starts since moving Penn State indoors is not an option (Thank goodness they're practicing in the low 80s). Meanwhile, the older players have a much better perspective on things:
"This is the grind time of camp, but I think it's hot everywhere," center William Vlachos said last week. "The teams who we'll play in our conference, it's hot wherever they're practicing. The teams that can manage it the best this time of year are the ones that are going to be able to finish strong in the fall."
With Terrence Cody now in the NFL, D.J. Fluker is the undisputed giant of the Crimson Tide. Reporting at 6'6" and close to 360, Fluker has slimmed down and worked on improving his body and stamina to the point he is now expected to take over the RT spot as a redshirt freshman:
"D.J. has made phenomenal improvement," said Alabama coach Nick Saban. "I think he made a big improvement from his freshman year to spring practice, I think he made a big improvement over the summer.
"The first thing he did was he improved his body tremendously in terms of his weight, his body fat, his muscle mass, which has helped his conditioning and his ability to sustain."
His fellow linemen are equally impressed with his progress:
"He’s worked hard and has gotten so much better. Look at him — he’s slimmed down and he looks great," said right guard Barrett Jones. "The thing about D.J. is he just wants it so bad and he works extremely hard to achieve his goals. That’s really important: he has such a desire to get better. He’ll be where he needs to be by (the start of) the season."
We all know that the offense is going to have to step it up this year to win some games, but exactly what does that mean?
"Whatever we can do to figure out how to win and exploit the other team to get a win at the end of the day, that's where it's at," offensive coordinator Jim McElwain said.
There's always the notion that the passing game is going to take off and the Tide will be a greater threat through the air. That's a natural expectation when you have a senior quarterback and a deep receiver rotation. Of course, that doesn't mean we'll start looking like a Mike Leach team if we don't have to:
Saban said, when he was at LSU, his teams varied between a rushing or passing emphasis depending on the personnel. He did the same at Michigan State.
"We don't have 'we're going to do this no matter what,'" Saban said. "We feel it's important to control the line of scrimmage and have balance on offense and utilize the personnel we have.
"We're not locked into anything."