TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban believes Alabama football has a lot of work to do to improve its special teams unit.
Alabama will be breaking in a new kicker and long snapper with former kicker Adam Griffith and four-year starting long snapper Cole Mazza gone. Griffith went 21 of 28 last season, but was inconsistent at times throughout his career.
The Crimson Tide signed kicker Joseph Bulovas and long snapper Thomas Fletcher in its 2017 class, but neither has locked up the job to this point. Saban put the onus to improve on the entire unit.
“I think we have work to do there. I really do,” Saban said of the specialists. “I think the timing of what we’re doing, not only with the specialists but also with the other special teams players. Whether it’s operation time, whether it’s blocking schemes, all these things we’re working really hard on. I think the snappers are certainly capable of throwing strikes. It’s getting the other parts of it right.
“I think there’s good competition at the long-snapper position. We’re looking at several people and same thing with field goal [kickers]. I think it’s too early to tell, but I think what happens on Saturday probably tells us a little more than what’s happened in practice.”
Alabama is scheduled to hold its first scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday. Saban runs Alabama’s scrimmages like games to see which players are able to take what they’ve learned in practice and apply it on the field without a coach standing next to them.
Fletcher is the lone long-snapper listed on Alabama’s roster so he is likely competing against walk-ons.
Bulovas is competing with senior Andy Pappanastos. Pappanastos missed attempts from 31 and 38 yards during Alabama’s A-Day spring game which had to give fans flashbacks of missed kicks over the last few years.
However, Pappanastos is a veteran option who could help the Crimson Tide at the position if given the opportunity.
Saban said he’s always evaluating the kickers through makes and misses.
“You watch it closely all the time. It’s all a part of it. Can a guy deliver?” Saban said. “It’s one thing to go out there and kick field goals on air. It’s another thing when there are 11 guys rushing and a lot of stuff happening around you. You got to get a good snap, a good hold and good operation time.
“You have to get a good zone relative to all those things so that you can execute properly. That’s what we’re in the process of working on, and we’re trying to make evaluations about that between now and the first game.”