TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama muffed three punts in its win over Arkansas this past Saturday, but Alabama football coach Nick Saban isn’t panicking.
Freshman receiver Henry Ruggs III, who started at punt returner, muffed back-to-back punts. He was replaced by sophomore defensive back Trevon Diggs, who also muffed one in Alabama’s 41-9 win over the Razorbacks.
Ruggs rebounded with his fourth touchdown catch of the season later in the game. Alabama also kept Ruggs deep on kick returns. Diggs cleanly fielded his other two punts after dropping the first one.
Saban said the team will continue to work with both players on securing the ball.
“I think we try to identify what the issue is if a guy is struggling, and try to fix it,” Saban said Monday. “I think the guy wants to catch the ball as much as we want him to catch it. So we’re going to practice as much and he’s going to want to practice as much until he gains the confidence to be able to do it correctly.
“I think the issues that our players had are fixable in terms of some of the things that we can do to help them maybe improve their technique, or keep a little better focus on the ball and not worry so much about the coverage so that we gain possession of the ball, No. 1. That’s the most important thing.”
It’s worth noting that teams typically don’t go live on punt or kickoff returns in practice, so no matter how much it’s worked on, players don’t get the true feeling of what it’ll be like when opponents are trying to tackle them or strip the ball.
Alabama is averaging 7.95 yards per punt return, which ranks ninth in the SEC. Only two SEC teams have punt returns for touchdowns this season — LSU and Kentucky.
No. 1 Alabama hosts Tennessee on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.