Alabama football needs stability at the kicking position?

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Place kicker Adam Griffith
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Place kicker Adam Griffith /

Alabama Crimson Tide football head coach Nick Saban feels that they may need to, once again, use multiple kickers this season. Do they need more stability?

It’s the one position nobody thinks about until the game is on the line. Many football fans make fun of how ‘unathletic’ or ‘childish’ the placekickers look in their oversized uniforms or oddly-shaped facemasks, until everything that the team plays for rides on his leg. Once a team finds their kicker, there likely is no need to worry about an injury or a mental breakdown hampering the success on the field; yet, so many coaches have almost no idea how to find a solid kicker.

Apparently, Alabama is no different.

Rainer Sabin of reported Saban’s statements as he “outlined a scenario in which punter JK Scott would attempt long field goals and kickoffs while either walk-on graduate transfer Andy Pappanastos — who came in from Ole Miss — or freshman Joseph Bulovas would take what he called the ‘regular’ field-goal tries.”

This piecemeal job seems out of character for the university which has been the top football recruiting school in the country, largely due to Saban, for the past decade. The reason is simple: nobody knows what to look for in a placekicker. Sure, every team wants a kicker to have a Superman-esque leg that drives the ball through the uprights from almost anywhere on the field but the fundamentals seem to elude even the best football coaches.

In January, Sabin claimed that the young man taking over the placekicking thrown in Alabama was to be “Bulovas, the top-rated placekicker in the country, according to After Brandon Ruiz reneged on his commitment to the Tide, Bulovas pledged earlier this month that he would attend Alabama. He is the heir apparent to Adam Griffith, who has exhausted his eligibility after enduring a career marked by inconsistency and injuries.”

Now, Saban’s words suggest that Bulovas is not what the coaching staff was necessarily hoping for when thinking of a kicker being ‘automatic’.

Sabin reported that Chris Sailer, who has been called “a kicker whisperer,” is one of a few people whom coaches from all over the country ask advice when observing placekickers. Sailer and these others run camps to look at a kicker’s mechanics and discuss their mental strength through tough situations:

"“Sailer says he typically places more than 40 specialists on scholarship each year […] he has been able to create a cottage industry because he’s homogenized the recruiting process for those players — removing the guesswork and giving the top programs an equal shot at securing the top prospects.”"

Well, in Alabama, the guesswork seems to have found its way back from banishment. Is Sailer really a kicker whisperer or was he just whispering the wrong thing into Bulovas’ ear before allowing Saban and his staff to bring him into the fold?

By having potentially three players kicking field goals in the same game, Alabama runs the risk of destroying any confidence these young men had in order to find the one who will fit the bill come playoff time. No Crimson Tide fan wants to relive the missed kick in the Iron Bowl that was taken for a touchdown and costed them a national title, a couple of years back. Yet, at what cost will this decision have on the current team?

It is a very comparable situation to a hockey team: the goalie needs to know that the team has his back when the game is on the line. He cannot score five goals to make up for the big goal that he let into the net; he has to rely on his reflexes and his quick knowledge of angles to move his body in the way of the fast-moving puck or else his team will suffer. One false move or muscle spasm in the wrong direction and the team’s hope of victory is lost. A football placekicker relies on his holder to put the ball exactly in the same place every single time while he tries to recreate the exact same muscle movements that he’s made countless times in practice to kick the ball through the uprights. Only this time, it’s with screaming fans, hundreds of cameras and reporters watching, and the pressure of teammates wishing that their lives didn’t rely on a single kick.

Add to that a situation where the coaching staff is ready to pull him out of a game after a mistake, because there are two other teammates waiting to take his job. With all of that up in the air, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand why the Alabama placekicker, whomever it ends up being, may crack under the pressure.

Next: Alabama Football: Begins game prep for Florida State

Sailer must be great at his job, or else he wouldn’t have so many coaches ask his advice on a potential kicker. However, Alabama football fans likely feel a bit skeptical that this possible three-man kicking rotation will work this season. Fans and coaches want to feel safe and stable that their kicker feels secure in his job enough to kick field goals with close to 100% efficiency. They don’t want to have to look out on the field and have to ask which kicker happens to be out there the moment a big kick has to happen. Will this situation resolve itself or will it go wide of the mark?