Alabama Football: Spring Look at Kickoff and Punt Returners

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Trevon Diggs
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Trevon Diggs /

Who will return kickoffs and punts for Alabama football this upcoming season?  As spring evolves, it will be interesting to see how Alabama football coach Nick Saban addresses special teams.

Under Nick Saban, Alabama football has had their lion’s share of extraordinary kickoff and punt returners.  Henceforth Javier Arenas, Marquis Maze, Christion Jones, Cyrus Jones, Kenyan Drake and Eddie Jackson, they possessed the potential to take the ball the distance on every return.

Last season, Alabama football did not have any kickoff or punt return touchdowns.  Hence, the team statistics were 20 kickoffs for 438 yards and a paltry 21.9 average.  Additionally, the punt return numbers were 38 punts for 301 yards for a 7.9 average.  Three different players, cornerback Trevon Diggs, wide receivers Xavian Marks and Henry Ruggs III all caught punts last year.  Diggs led the team with an 8.6 average per return.  His longest return was 21 yards.

Henry Ruggs III led the team in the number of kickoff returns with 18 returns for an average of 18.4 yards per return.  Trevon Diggs returned two kickoffs for a 37-yard average.

The candidates

Alabama football
ATLANTA, GA – JANUARY 08: Henry Ruggs III /

Trevon Diggs, a converted wide receiver, has shown flashes of going the distance on returns.  His longest return of 55 yards occurred against Auburn during the 24-13 loss.  During his freshman season, the brother of NFL wide receiver Stefon Diggs returned seven kickoffs for 166 yards and 13 punt returns for 130 yards.  His longest returns were for 41 and 47 yards.

Former five-star receiver Henry Ruggs III arrived in the Capstone as the top wide receiver prospect in the country according to 24/7 Sports.  Certainly, his blazing speed is evident as he set the Alabama High School Athletic Association record for 100m with a time of 10.58.

Senior wide receiver Xavian Marks returned a punt for a 75-yard touchdown against Kent State as a sophomore.  Correspondingly, his play led to him named as Alabama football special teams player of the week.  His longest return in 2017 was for 26 yards.

Junior running back Joshua Jacobs is an X factor that can contribute as a returner.  The elusive back was injured for a significant amount of the season.  While returning fully healthy, he could make the incumbents uneasy with his dazzling playmaking ability.

The answer to special teams

Alabama football
Alabama football /

New Alabama coach Jeff Banks arrives in Tuscaloosa after spending five years at Texas A&M  as special teams coordinator and tight end coach.  Notably, Jeff Banks’ special teams led the nation in punt returns average with an average of 25.39 yards per return and four touchdowns.  In 2017, they finished second in the country with a 17.1 average and two touchdowns.   Volatile wide receiver Christian Kirk was the recipient of Banks’s great coaching.  Thus, providing him the opportunity to play football on Sundays in the NFL.

Next: 15 Names for '19 Recruiting Class

In conclusion, Diggs, Ruggs, and Marks all have the ingredients needed to make Alabama special teams an important part of Alabama’s run to another national title.  Regardless, coach Banks will have his hands full.