Last season, Alabama had the luxury of senior specialists handling all of the kicking duties. The incomparable J.K. Scott did the punting, kickoffs, and held on placekicks for another senior, Andy Pappanastos. With both of those players exhausting their eligibility, the Tide will turn to a trio of freshmen to handle these critical tasks.
Spectacularly named true freshman punter Skyler DeLong hails from the Charlotte suburb of Fort Mill, SC. Like his All-American predecessor
who was criminally robbed of a Ray Guy trophy because the team is too good, he is tall and lanky at 6’4” and 180 lbs. Rated the #4 punter in the country according to the 247 composite, he certainly has the leg to get the job done. Based on Saban’s comments this spring, it sounds like Skyler has boomed his share but also had a few shanks along the way, which is to be expected. It will be interesting to see how he does on Saturday. There doesn’t seem to be much, if any, competition at this position.
Alabama has had its share of calamities in the field goal kicking department the past few seasons, so the idea of losing a senior kicker and holder has to be concerning. Thus far this spring, both duties have fallen on redshirt freshmen in kicker Joseph Bulovas and QB Mac Jones. Many thought that Bulovas would compete for the starting job last season that ultimately went to Pappanastos, but it must have been clear to the staff that a redshirt season was needed as a competition never seemed to materialize. Spring information is always a bit tough to come by, but we know that Bulovas made four of five field goals in the last scrimmage that “weren’t chip shots” and did OK on kickoffs. DeLong handled kickoff duties in high school so there may be some competition there.
It’s always good to have a QB hold on field goals for the fake possibilities, but with Jones redshirting last season the staff was reluctant to use backup Tua Tagovailoa in that role. Hopefully Jones can take the reins here. Holding on kicks is an underrated skill that requires sure hands, concentration, and the ability to handle pressure.
The good news is that, should all of these players pan out, there will be some stability in the kicking game for the next few seasons. Of course, for this season we have a full-blown youth movement which will likely be the cause of some anxiety among the faithful. As we say around here, hope for the best.