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Alabama Crimson Tide’s Kicking Dilemma

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When Bama lines up against FSU in 115 days, who will be the one(s) to put foot to leather?

CFP National Championship - Alabama v Clemson
It’s up... Is it good?
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Nothing is certain in life except death, taxes, and the fact that the Crimson Tide is gonna have a beastly defense. If those are the only certainties, that leaves a lot of uncertainties. One in particular for Alabama is the kicking game. The placekickers on the Capstone during the Saban era have been a roller coaster mixed bag of uncertainty.

KICKING UNDER NICK SABAN

Year Natl Rank Kicker YR G Made Att Pct Blocked Kickoffs Avg KO Touch Backs OOB
2007 59 Leigh Tiffin SO 13 25 34 73.5 1 70 60.0 4 2
2008 60 Leigh Tiffin JR 14 20 29 69.0 1 75 64.1 2 0
2009 16 Leigh Tiffin SR 14 30 35 85.7 0 94 63.5 14 2
2009 DNQ Jeremy Shelley FR 1 0 1 0 0 1 57.0 0 0
2010 59 Jeremy Shelley SO 13 12 16 75 0 3 64.3 0 0
2010 DNQ Cade Foster FR 13 7 9 77.8 0 84 65.2 10 1
2011 31 Jeremy Shelley JR 13 21 27 77.8 2 9 55.1 0 0
2011 n/a Cade Foster SO 13 2 9 22.2 0 81 63.3 5 1
2012 DNQ Jeremy Shelley* SR 14 11 11 100 0 - - - -
2012 DNQ Cade Foster JR 14 4 9 44.4 1 99 63.5 46** 0
2013 69 Cade Foster SR 13 12 17 70.6 1 74 62.2 17 0
2013 DNQ Adam Griffith FR 6 1 3 33.3 0 14 63.2 4 0
2014 98 Adam Griffith SO 13 12 19 63.2 0 69 61.4 20 2
2014 n/a JK Scott FR 13 - - - - 24 62.5 8 1
2014 DNQ Gunnar Raborn FR 2 2 3 .66.7 0 - - - -
2015 71 Adam Griffith JR 15 23 32 71.9 1 100 63.2 55 1
2016 54 Adam Griffith SR 15 21 28 75 0 99 63.2 48 1
2016 n/a JK Scott*** JR 15 - - - - 9 62.3 4 0
2016 DNQ Andy Pappanastos JR 4 1 1 100 0 2 57.0 0 0

DNQ = did not have enough field goal attempts to qualify for national rankings.
*Jeremy Shelley did not kickoff in 2012.
**In 2012, the NCAA moved kickoffs from the 30 to the 35 yard-line.
***JK Scott did not kickoff in 2015.

SABAN KICKERS ON SCHOLARSHIP

In 2008, giving a kicker a scholarship was an unusual move. In 2017, over 30 kickers were signed. One could say that Saban started this trend. However, it has not been the most successful move for him.

  • 2008: Corey Smith out of Bunker Hill, WV was the first kicker under Saban to accept a scholarship. After participating in three games as a true freshman at Alabama, missing an extra point and one field goal attempt, he transferred out.
  • 2010: Cade Foster had trouble putting the ball between the uprights and became the exclusive kickoff man.
  • 2012: Adam Griffith took a while to get going but became a decent placekicker for the Tide. He became the Crimson Tide’s all-time career leader for PATs with 186 and ranks fifth on the UA career list with 57 made field goals. However, he only converted 69.5% of his field goals over his career.
  • 2017 Joseph Bulovas will join the team in the fall.
Allstate BCS National Championship Game - LSU v Alabama
Jeremy Shelley kicks five field goals vs. LSU
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

SABAN WALK-ON KICKERS

(Just a sampling)

Bama has had other walk-on kickers whose names you probably don’t recall. Two of them found great success.

Nick Saban inherited Leigh Tiffin, the son of legendary kicker Van Tiffin. He was named an Associated Press All-American after his senior year.

Jeremy Shelley sat a year behind Tiffin and then had to compete with Cade Foster, eventually overtaking him. He finished his college career with a total 44 made field goals out of 55 field goal attempts (80%) and 172 PATs (an Alabama record for a few years). He is ranked the 6th all-time leading scorer in Alabama history.

BEST-LAID PLANS

Over the last ten seasons, the kicking game has had it’s ups and downs and has yet to produce a kicker who finds consistency over the length of his career. Many of them start off slow and perfect their craft by their senior season. Alabama may not be able to afford such patience in the coming season.

In June of 2015, Saban received a commitment from the nation’s #1 kicking prospect in Eddy Pineiro. The likely plan was to have Pineiro push Adam Griffith while preparing himself to take over in 2017. Thanks to the ill-timed defection of Pineiro to the Florida Gators in mid-December, Alabama was left without a kicker for the 2016 class. With Griffith battling back problems, the Tide needed another option in case he could not go.

Enter Andy Pappanastos. The former Ole Miss reserve kicker grad-transferred to Alabama as a junior walk-on in March of 2016 where he backed up Griffith in limited duty last season. However, Pappanastos had a poor 2017 A-Day, missing on both of his field goal attempts from 31 and 38 yards. Also, his kickoff yardage was less than impressive (64, 61, 65, 58, 55). After the second missed field goal, punter JK Scott took over the field goal kicking duties, missing from 45 but connecting from 20 and the game-winner from 30 yards.

Before you all get too excited about JK Scott pulling double kicking duty, know that this is not his area of expertise. Scott is still an elite college punter but his placekicking skills may be limited. He has attempted only one field goal in a game and missed it (a 33-yard vs Charleston Southern in 2015). He has converted one extra point in both 2014 and 2015. Scott may be Alabama’s best option at placekicker. Otherwise, the Crimson Tide may be forced to attempt more fourth down conversion. Unless...

THE LATE ENROLLEE

It was deja vu all over again in the last recruiting cycle. In June of 2016 Bama received a commitment from top kicker Brandon Ruiz out of Gilbert, AZ. At least Pineiro crapped out in December. Ruiz waitied until two weeks before NSD to decide he wanted to stay close to home and attend @powerhouse@ Arizona State.

This disappointing development put the Tide staff into a bit of panic mode as most of the other kickers had committed. A week later, Joseph Bulovas of Mandeville, LA decommited from Georgia Tech and agreed to play for Alabama. The true freshman will be reporting to the Capstone sometime this month and begin practicing this August. He has a big powerful hoof as you have probably seen in his video. But it’ll be a lot different kicking in front of ESPN and 70,000+ fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta while eleven large Florida State Seminoles are trying to murderize you.

RASH CONCLUSIONS

  • It is probably safe to conclude that Pappanastos will not be the first choice. Or second choice.
  • Unless Bulovas absolutely wows everyone in fall camp, Scott likely handles kickoff duties.
  • The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is a mighty big stage for a true frosh to make his debut. I predict Scott will attempt the field goals in Game 1. Bulovas will be worked into the mix in the games that follow (Fresno State, Colorado State, at Vandy, Ole Miss).
  • If neither Bulovas or Scott look capable, Alabama may be forced to go for first down conversions on fourth down with more frequency. RTDB!

Poll

Who will be the field goal kicker for Alabama vs. FSU?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Joseph Bulovas
    (719 votes)
  • 15%
    JK Scott
    (167 votes)
  • 6%
    Andy Pappanastos
    (67 votes)
  • 12%
    RTDB!
    (139 votes)
1092 votes total Vote Now