SEC Country is breaking down each Alabama position group from Feb. 29 to March 7 as the Crimson Tide prepare for spring football.
Monday’s breakdown features Alabama’s 2016 specialists.
Notable departures: Kenyan Drake (kick returner), Cyrus Jones (punt returner)
You should already know: Adam Griffith (kicker), JK Scott (punter)
Get to know: Damien Harris (kick returner), Daylon Charlot (punt returner)
Analysis: Alabama’s kicker and punter each flipped their momentum in 2015. Griffith, who struggled mightily the year before, established himself as one of the country’s most impressive placekickers.
Scott, an All-American in 2014, saw his average dip from 48.0 yards per punt to 44.2 during a comparatively shaky year. No one’s panicking about the punting game, though. Scott’s “down” sophomore year was still 24th best in the country.
Griffith rebounded from a miserable sophomore campaign by nailing 23 of his final 28 field goals last season, including 2-for-2 from 50-plus yards. He’s got a big leg that creates consistent touchbacks, and he’ll be a strong Lou Groza Award candidate if he can sharpen his accuracy a bit.
Drake and Jones are gone from the return squads, and it’s not immediately clear who will replace them.
Harris returned nine kickoffs last season, but coaches might hesitate to leave him deep if he earns the bulk of Alabama’s rushing attempts this year. Our projected punt returner, Charlot, showed an ability to break big plays in high school, and fits the short, speedy mold that coach Nick Saban tends to gravitate to at that position.
Key question: Who will be Alabama’s primary kick and punt returners?
Bottom line: There’s not much to worry about with Saban’s above-average specialists, even with the departure of his primary returners.