Alabama Football: Worrisome early signs for Bama? Not at kicker

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /

In week three of the 2022 college football season, Alabama Football once again has the look of a champion.

Well, in one particular area anyway.

While the new crop of receivers can’t seem to get open and the ground attack can’t seem to get rolling and the defense can’t seem to force turnovers, a lanky, 6-foot-1, 190-pound native of Hoover is reminding not just Bama fans but the entire college football world that the best kicker in the country this autumn might very well reside in Tuscaloosa.

It’s a bit of an ironic twist in this golden era of Alabama Football. Those early Saban juggernauts were powered mostly by the defense, and the offense mostly tried to stay out of the way and not blow it. The more recent Saban title contenders have been offense-centric with the defense doing just enough to keep the Ws coming.

If there’s been one glaring Achilles’ heel in Alabama’s decade-plus run of dominance it’s been at the kicker position. Missed makeable field goals loomed large in losses to LSU in 2011, Auburn in 2013, Ole Miss in 2014 and Auburn again in 2019 and missed field goals against Georgia nearly cost the Tide a national title in 2017.

Wide left. Wide right. Doink off the left upright. Doink off the right. Why can’t a traditional blue-blood, a perennial national contender, the gold standard of college football ever find a warm-blooded human being who can consistently kick a pigskin through the uprights or come through in crunch time when the Tide is in desperate need of three points?

For years, it was an annual source of consternation for Bama fans. Older Bama fans pined for the days when the Tide trotted out sure-footed, ultra-clutch marksmen like Van Tiffin and Phillip Doyle. Instead, over the last decade-plus, the kicker, whomever it happened it be that particular season, would jog out onto the field and the heart rates of Tide followers would rev into overdrive, probably inflicting more cardiovascular damage across the Heart of Dixie than a tub of cholesterol-packed butter could ever do.

At the snap of the ball, Tide fans would nervously hold their breath. Or shut their eyes. Or look away. Or bury their heads in their hands. Or pray. Or do some sort of combination of the five. Made field goals weren’t the expectation. Misses were. Makes were welcome surprises.

My, how things have changed.

Oh, the handwringing is still there and has ramped up yet again after Alabama’s Houdini-like escape in Austin last Saturday. But the impetus of that handwringing is what’s different now. The offense. The defense. The coordinators. The play-calling. All catching flak. Immune to all angst? Oddly enough, Alabama’s kicker. Credit Will Reichard for single-handedly — single footedly? — changing the narrative for Saban-era kickers. An injury derailed his freshman season in 2019, but once he got healthy again, the kid’s been a kicking machine for the Tide since 2020.

Alabama Football Mr. Accurate – Will Reichard

How accurate has Reichard been? Well, in 2020 he was perfect. Yeah, perfect. Something almost unheard of when it comes to kickers — at any level of football. Reichard was 14-of-14 on field goal attempts, including 3-of-3 from the 40-49 range and 1-of-1 from over 50, and 84-of-84 on extra point attempts. Perhaps not coincidentally, the team finished with a perfect record that season too and won the national championship.

Last season, Reichard wasn’t perfect, but he was still plenty good, converting 22-of-28 field goal attempts, including making 14-of-15 from inside 40 yards, and 71-of-72 extra-point attempts. So far this season he’s 4-of-4 on field goal attempts and 9-of-9 on extra points.

But it was his most recent made field goal that has now forever endeared him to Alabama fans. It wasn’t just that he booted the game-winner in Alabama’s 20-19 win over Texas, but it was everything surrounding that kick that served notice that the kicker Alabama possesses right now isn’t just reliable, but downright, cold-blooded clutch, perhaps one of Bama’s best of all time, right there alongside the likes of Tiffin and Doyle.

The kick was no chip shot. It was from 33 yards out. Lots of kicks are missed from that distance in college football.

It came on the road, in front of a raucous, frenzied, hostile crowd, thirsting for an upset win of gargantuan proportion to catapult its middling program to new heights.

It came with just 10 seconds left to play. In the game.

And it came with Alabama trailing by two. The game wasn’t tied. Alabama was losing. A miss didn’t mean shuffling off into overtime, resetting for another run at victory. A miss meant No. 1 Alabama going down in Week 2.

And speaking of two, that’s exactly how many times Reichard had to deliver in the clutch, thanks to a last-second Longhorns timeout. How many times has a kicker nailed a seemingly game-winner only to have to turn right around and make that same kick a second time because the opposing coach called a last-second timeout, and then the kicker misfires left or right or gets his kick blocked on the redo? Last Saturday, it was more times than Bama fans wanted to recall.

Yet, there he was, the coolest, calmest crimson-and-white clad customer in the house — not wearing No. 9 — out there doing his thing. You want uprights split? Here you go. Oh, you want it again? No problem. Here you go. Reichard’s boots didn’t barely sneak inside one of the uprights. They didn’t squeak in. They didn’t flutter in sideways like a wounded duck. No one had to awkwardly tilt or lean his or her head to one side in hopes of coaxing the ball through. No reviews by the officials were needed.

Nah, Reichard’s back-to-back strokes were solid, true, picture-perfect and delivered with resounding authority. Watching him masterfully save the Tide not once but twice in the final seconds made it seem like had Texas had 57 timeouts at its disposal the strong-legged senior could have hammered home game-winners from that distance all day long on the steamy Texas home turf, one right after the other.

dark. Next. Bold Predictions for ULM Game

Will Alabama’s offense and defense eventually round into form? Probably. But we’ll see. But for now at least, odd as it may seem, Alabama — the juggernaut who for the longest could never find a juggernaut-caliber kicker — finally appears to have the surest, calmest, coolest cleat in all the land.