Punter leads nation in punts inside 20-yard line
By MARQ BURNETT
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Almost all of the success Alabama football has had since Nick Saban arrived can be attributed to Saban himself, but there are some things even he won't take credit for.
Mainly, the success of true freshman punter JK Scott, who is a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the nation's top punter.
Asked what the coaching staff has done to help Scott remain so consistent this season, Saban said they've just stayed out of Scott's way and let him do his thing.
"Well, I don't really want to take any credit for anything that we do because he could punt really well when he came here," Saban said. "But I think JK is very dedicated, really has a routine that he likes to stay in in terms of his workout, preparation, flexibility, strength and conditioning.
"In fact, we allow him to do exactly what he likes to do relative to what he thinks he needs to do to be able to maximize his ability as a specialist"
For those wondering, the "JK" is a family name and stands for John Kimball.
Despite his exploits on the field, Scott hasn't been and won't be available to speak with reporters until postseason play due to Saban's long standing policy of not letting freshman talk to the media.
On the year, Scott has punted 43 times for an average of 46.8 yards per attempt and has a long of 66.
He now leads the nation with 53.5 percent (23-of-43) of his punts landing inside
Scott has earned SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors multiple times, including this past weekend after his performance against Mississippi State. When Alabama's offense fell flat, Scott stepped up and repeatedly flipped the field in the Tide's favor.
Against then-No. 1 Mississippi State, Scott punted seven times for 319 yards (45.6 average), dropping five of the seven inside the 20.
"He's obviously one of the most unsung heroes on this team," Tide center Ryan Kelly said, "if you look at some of the positions he gets us out of when we're backed up and he kicks a 50- or 60-yard punt and pins (the other team's offense) down there. He's done a great job all year long and really helped us out on offense sometimes."
If there's one knock on Scott, it's that he tries to be too perfect, said Saban.
"You know one of the biggest challenges I think for specialists, and we've gone through this with several of our guys, sometimes good enough is good enough," Saban said.
" You don't have to keep trying to get better. When you're kicking every one of them 50 and 55 yards with a 5.0 (second) hang time, that's good enough. You don't really have to try to keep going. And he's one of those guys who always really wants to try to do a little better and keep going."
Listed at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, Scott looks more like a basketball swingman. He's easy to spot on the field during warmups as he towers over most of the Tide's specialists.
That size, as Scott's kicking coach Jamie Kohl puts it, makes him the "prototypical punter." Kohl said Scott's length helps him with both leverage and hangtime.
Kohl, who runs Kohl's Kicking Camps, began working with Scott early in Scott's high school career. During a telephone interview, Kohl recalled Scott being able to "hit high balls that wouldn't turn over," but always saw that the "leg power was there."
Now, Scott's stretched frame allows him to routinely hang 50- and 60-yard punts.
"There are a lot of people that cannot create that leg speed when they punt to be able to get the ball high enough off the ground," Kohl said.
"Gravity brings that ball back down to Earth quicker for other people than it does for JK. He's an athletic, big kid. He's wiry, but he has good hands so he's able to sit the ball in the same spot. If you're able to do that time and time again and you have a big, fast leg like he has, you're going to hit big punts."
-- Contact Anniston Star Sports Writer Marq Burnett at email@example.com.