If you believe in the Nick Saban's Process©, you realize that every aspect of the program must be given the same amount of attention. Special teams are no exception.
For the past eight seasons, the Crimson Tide has been blessed with two exceptional 4-year punters. From 2006 to 2009, the duties went to P.J. Fitzgerald. After he graduated, it was the task of the Saban staff to find a replacement. For the Class of 2010, the Tide signed highly-touted Jay Williams of Thomasville, AL.
Cody Mandell was an All-State performer at Acadiana High School in Lafayette, LA. As a junior, he averaged 43.0 yards per kick. As a senior, he averaged 41.3 yards including a long of 65 yards.
Originally he had accepted a scholarship from Tulane but he was not academically eligible and the scholarship offer was withdrawn. After National Signing Day 2010 had passed, Nick Saban contacted Mandell who had impressed the staff at an Alabama camp the past year and offered him a spot as a preferred walk-on. After acing a summer math course, Mandell became eligible and enrolled at the Capstone.
Mandell won the job that fall and Williams eventually left the team to concentrate on baseball.
As a freshman, Mandell was voted Freshman All-SEC honors by the league's coaches. He averaged 39.2 yards per punt, recorded nine punts of over 50 yards, and had 13 downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. The first punt of his Alabama career went 52 yards and downed at the opponent's 21.
In 2011, his average was 39.3 yards per punt. Eleven of his punts were downed inside the 20 and forced 17 fair catches. He saved his best punt of the season for last in the BCS Championship Game against LSU. Up 15-0 in the 4th quarter, the ball was spotted on Bama's 14-yard line. Mandell standing on the goal line sent a kick sailing 52 yards for a waiting Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu who was instantly smothered by a wave of Crimson jerseys and pushed backwards. A defining moment for sure.
That punt was a sign of things to come for Mandell as he proved in 2012 to be a clutch kicker stepping up his performance in the big games. If ever the nickname "Big Game" fit a punter, it would certainly suit him.
He showed marked improvement for in his junior campaign as his average shot up to 44.3 leaving 17 kicks inside the opponents' 20 yard line. He had 14 boots over 50 yards with a long of 61. Eight of his 50+ yarders came in the biggest games of the Tide's season against LSU, Texas A&M, and Notre Dame.
He would have been among the NCAA leaders but did not have enough punts to qualify. #CrimsonTideProblems.
For his performance, Cody was named RBR's "Unsung Hero for 2012".
Mandell has continued to evolve his game as he has averaged an outstanding 47.3 yards per punt so far this 2013 season. Again, he does not have enough kicks to qualify for the national standings (3 shy) but if he did, he would be second in the nation.
Fourteen of his kicks have been spotted inside the opponents' 20 yard line. He has 13 punts of 50 or more yards, five of which went 60 or more yards. Against Mississippi State this past week, he had kicks that traveled 63, 61, 55, and 41 yards. Both of those 60-yarders against MSU were downed inside the 3 yard line earning him the Ray Guy Award Player of the Week and SEC Special Teams Player of the Week.
With the Iron Bowl on the horizon, it will be time for "Big Game" Mandell to shine again.