With so much hemming and hawing about the Alabama offense and hand-wringing over the defense, little time has been spent discussing Crimson Tide special teams. Placekicker Will Reichard and punter James Burnip had mostly solid performances against Mississippi State, but there is some inconsistency that needs to be kept under observation.
Reichard got back on track by connecting on field goals of 50, 33, and 38 yards. He also converted all three of his extra point attempts with no problem.
Over the last three seasons, Reichard has found the end zone on kickoffs the majority of the time. Most other times, the ball returned to Earth around the opponent’s 2 yard line. On Saturday, he only achieved two touchbacks, one fair catch, and four returns in seven kickoffs. Of those four returns, the Bulldogs returners crossed the 25 yard line three times. Most notably was the second kickoff that was fielded at the MSU 7 by Lideatrick Griffin and returned to the 35 yard line. The goal of most teams is to have no return attempts at all in kickoffs or punts.
- (15:00 - 1st) Kick to the MSU End Zone. Touchback, spot at the MSU 25.
- (3:57 - 1st) Kick to the MSU 7. Lideatrick Griffin returned to the MSU 35.
- (11:38 - 2nd) Kick to the MSU 6. Lideatrick Griffin returned to the MSU 20.
- (8:19 - 2nd) Kick to the MSU 12. Fair catch by Simeon Price, spot at the MSU 25.
- (2:54 - 2nd) Kick to the MSU 2. Simeon Price returned to the MSU 34.
- (14:49 - 4th) Kick to the MSU 4. Simeon Price returned to the MSU 27.
- (9:13 - 4th) Kick to the MSU End Zone. Touchback, spot at the MSU 25.
The Crimson Tide coverage allowed three returns past the 25. Success is measured when a cover team can hold an opponent to behind the 25 yard line. Alabama achieved this one time.
WARNING! The following is based on one person observations only, but the question has to be raised as to whether Reichard is playing through some kind of injury. The man has been money on field goals since his “perfect” 2020 season. However in Game 6 against Texas A&M, Reichard inexplicably missed two field goals of 47 and 35 yards. The next week at Tennessee, he missed a 50 yarder that would have given Bama a late lead.
Some might blame the Neyland Stadium atmosphere and the high-stakes pressure of either game, but he nailed a game-winner at Texas earlier in the season under similar circumstances. And to miss one as short as 35 is not in his nature. As a matter of fact, Reichard had only missed one field goal under 40 yards in the last three seasons and that was a 34-yarder against Mercer with Paul Tyson serving as holder in his penultimate game in that role.
Then last Saturday we witnessed the short kickoffs. With a bye week to rest/heal up, it will be interesting to gauge his performance on Saturday night in Baton Rouge.
After an inconsistent and somewhat disappointing 2021, James Burnip has quietly been having a solid campaign. Against Mississippi State, his average punt was 37.0 yards. However, that stat is misleading. In six punts, the Bulldogs were only able to attempt one return and in that one instance, Zavion Thomas fumbled and the Tide’s Jaylen Moody recovered. Also in those six kicks, the best starting field position for the Bullies was the 28 yard line and that came after a 50 yard boot.
It is interesting to note that in that first punt, Burnip netted 50 yards on his first attempt but due to an Alabama penalty, he had to re-kick and again his kick sailed 50 yards.
- 4 & 5 - BAMA 27 (11:56 - 1st) Punt 50 yards to MSU 22. Downed by Emmanuel Henderson. PENALTY on BAMA - Illegal Formation, 5 yards accepted. No Play.
- 4 & 10 - BAMA 22 (11:43 - 1st) Punt 50 yards to MSU 28. Fair catch by Austin Williams.
- 4 & 9 - BAMA 44 (1:13 - 2nd) Punt 21 yards to MSU 23. Out of bounds.
- 4 & 7 - BAMA 47 (12:47 - 3rd) Punt 34 yards to MSU 19. Out of bounds.
- 4 & 25 - BAMA 46 (4:32 - 3rd) Punt 36 yards to MSU 10. Out of bounds.
- 4 & 8 - BAMA 45 (2:24 - 3rd) Punt 41 yards to MSU 14. Zavion Thomas fielded from the MSU 14, fumbled, recovered by Moody at MSU 17.
- 4 & 8 - BAMA 36 (4:05 - 4th) Punt 40 yards to MSU 24. Fair catch by Austin Williams.