“He’s already the best on the planet.” -Rece Davis
In 2015, we sat down with ESPN’s Rece Davis to talk ‘Bama. As usually happens with these interviews, Rece’s producer had given us a list of topics Davis was comfortable discussing, including any special requests he had: Rece’s request was to talk about then-sophomore J.K. Scott. While I expected fulsome praise, I was not ready to hear the phrase “best on the planet” come out of the mouth of College Gameday’s straight-laced host.
He may even be right.
Alabama has been blessed with scores of athletes that have been the best, or among the best, at their position the last decade. While game-changing longsnappers may get overlooked in favor of a Julio Jones, Alabama fans have never overlooked J.K. Scott Since his first kick in crimson, the 6’6” 204-pound Scott has been a crowd favorite, reaching almost cult hero status.
He has the resume to go with it too.
Despite playing in the hot, heavy air of the Southeastern Conference, where most schools are near sea level and play on natural grass, Scott has been nothing short of amazing. As a Freshman, he led the nation averaging 48 yards per punt. That was good enough to earn him All-American and All-SEC accolades as well as being named a Ray Guy finalist and a two-time national Special Teams Player of the Week. He put 31 of his 55 punts (56.4 percent) punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line to lead the nation in that category as well.
After a year spent tinkering with his mechanics, where he was merely very good at 44.2 yards per kick, Scott had a bounceback junior campaign, averaging 47.2 yards per punt (3rd in the nation). He hit 25 (39%) of his punts 50 yards or longer (7th nationally.) And, Scott was second in the nation in 60+ yard punts (7.) He was again named to All-American and All-SEC teams.
Outdoors, at sea level, on grass (I cannot emphasize this enough as I throw shade at Utah’s Rice-Eccles padded punting statistics.)
He was listed by most evaluations as the No. 1 draft-eligible punter available for the 2017 NFL draft, and there was real concern that he would forgo his senior season to join the pros. The former No. 1 punter and No. 8 placekicking recruit from Denver is again listed as the No. 1 punter on the board for the 2018 NFL Draft. He will undoubtedly enter the season on the Ray Guy watch list. He even gave us the game-winning kick in this year’s A-Day game.
You really have to be at field level to appreciate what he can do with a football. J.K . doesn’t have the high, beautiful spirals you’d associate with great punters, although he can get plenty of hangtime and has more than enough leg to bury them. He’s not an angle, coffin-corner punter either. Rather, on the field, Scott draws and fades the booming, end-over-end kicks like a 7-iron shot. Returners get lost on the field; blocking doesn’t ever really set up; pursuit is already upon them; they are hard punts to field and return -- and that’s if the opposing teams even get to return it: Over 40% of the time, opponents simply call for a fair catch. Highly effective. Consistent.
And it all began with his first kick as a true freshman: a 62-yarder that buried the West Virginia Mountaineers at their own 7, setting the stage for what has been a tremendous career to-date.
62 days ‘til Alabama football.