BamaOnLine.com takes a look ahead at Alabama's special teams.
Foster will look to handle all aspects of placekicking as a senior.
Specialists returning: PK 43 Cade Foster (Sr.); P 29 Cody Mandell (Sr.); H 10 A.J. McCarron (Sr.); PK 99 Adam Griffith (rFr.); PR/KR 22 Christion Jones (Jr.); PR/KR 2 DeAndrew White (Jr.); PR/KR 5 Chris Black (rFr.); PR/KR 8 Cyrus Jones (So.); PR/KR 1 Dee Hart (So.); PR/KR 9 Amari Cooper (So.).
See ya in the summer: SN Cole Mazza.
Did you know? In 2012, Shelley threw the place kicking equivalent of a perfect game, making good on each of his 11 field goal attempts and 69 extra points (UA's lone PAT failure came on a botched placement) ... In his three seasons as Alabama's starting punter, Mandell has yet to meet the required average of 3.6 punts per game needed to qualify for the NCAA's individual rankings ... UA's punt return average dipped from 13.0 in 2011 to 9.9 in 2012 ... The Crimson Tide averaged 24.0 yards per kickoff return in 2012, almost identical to its 2011 average of 24.1 ... Shelley (11-of-11) and Foster (4-of-9) combined to attempt 20 field goals in 2012, down from 36 in 2011. The duo's attempt total from a year ago marked the fewest in a season by UA kickers during the Saban era ... After recording five touchbacks in 2011, Foster took advantage of new rule moving kickoffs up to the 35-yard line, booting 46 touch backs in 2012.
The big question(s): It could be argued that the kicking game is home to more question marks than any other area of this team. Who takes over Shelley's role, Foster or Griffith? Mazza will be on campus in the summer but with Tinker and his backup, Kelly Johnson, gone, who will handle long snapping duties in the spring? Shelley was also Mandell's backup, so who's next in line at punter? After using three different players on punt returns in 2012, who will take the job by the throat in 2013?
Time to make a move: The uprights will undoubtedly appear wider to Foster this spring because, well, they'll be closer. Of his 27 career field goal attempts, only two have come from inside 40 yards. Perhaps a few more gimmes will do the senior's psyche some good.
Best of the bunch: Mandell's 2012 gross (44.3 ypp) and (more importantly) net (39.5 ypp) averages were the highest by a punter during the Nick Saban era at Alabama. Both were up significantly over his 2011 numbers of 39.3 and 36.5 yards, respectively.
Biggest upside: Doesn't mean he'll win the job, but the ball comes off Griffith's right foot with more pop than any other UA kicker I can recall. Getting the ball up quickly off the ground doesn't appear to be a problem for the redshirt freshman, either.
Don't be shocked if: Christion Jones' 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Ole Miss aside, Alabama's return game was hit and miss in 2012. With that in mind, Black getting a long look on kickoff and punt returns this spring wouldn't come as a surprise.
Lest we forget: As a three-year starter, Tinker wasn't just a model of consistency on the field. His ability to overcome personal tragedy and maintain a positive spirit following the events of April 27, 2011 lifted not only his teammates, but a state as well.
Spring sneak peek: Linebacker
Spring sneak peek: Wide recevier
Spring sneak peek: Tight end
Spring Sneak Peek: Offensive line
Spring Sneak Peek: Secondary
Spring Sneak Peek: Running back
Spring Sneak Peek: Defensive line
Spring Sneak Peek: Quarterback
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