University of Alabama

Alabama's kicking game still concerns Saban

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After the first nine days of Alabama football practice, several mysteries remain.

None is greater, or possibly as significant, as the one involving the kicking game.

Saturday’s scrimmage was closed to the public and the media and the stats released by media relations had one major omission: No numbers for punters or kickers.

Nick Saban filled in some of the blanks saying the specialists were making progress but still lacked consistency.

“I think if you watch these guys punt in specialty before practice, you would say that ‘Man, where did you get those guys,’” Saban said. “But they’ve got to learn to take that to the game. They have to learn to take it when it’s live bullets come rushing at them and trying to stay with them. I think it is just going to be experience for them and confidence and trusting in the people that are blocking for them.”

The top two punters, Jay Williams and Cody Mandell — both true freshmen — are battling to succeed P.J. Fitzgerald, who graduated with an Alabama record 54 starts. Neither were around for A-Day when punting was a real black mark.

As for the place-kickers, Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster continue to represent opposing styles and strengths. Saban said Shelley, a sophomore, continues to thrive facing shorter kicks, while Foster is still the long-distance man.

In his post-scrimmage news conference, Saban said Shelley “made two and missed two” Saturday but only missed “one all camp” from inside the 25 yard-line.

Foster — another true freshman, but one who was around for spring practice as an early enrollee — is still working to find his aim from long range.

“Both of those guys have good talent, but it’s the same thing,” Saban said. “You have to be able to take it to the game and play with consistency and confidence. That’s what we’re trying to develop situationally as we go through camp.”

Shelley is the only of the four punters/kickers with any collegiate experience — all coming late in the blowout win over Chattanooga. He had one kickoff of 57 yards, a made extra point and a 43-yard field goal that fell well short of the crossbar.