Alabama Football: Special Teams errors were uncharacteristic


One of the strengths of the Alabama Football team in 2023 has been special teams. In fact, some would call the Bama special teams the best unit on the entire roster.

Senior kicker Will Reichard and redshirt junior punter James Burnip have been praised for their efforts as two of the team’s most consistent performers.

For the season, Burnip has averaged an impressive 48.2 yards on his 16 punts. On eight of those boots, he has pinned the opponent inside their own 20-yard line. Burnip has notched six punts of 50+ yards, including a long of 61 yards. The Aussie has been one of the better punters in college football thus far, and is a field position weapon for Alabama Football.

Similarly, Reichard has been elite. He entered 2023 with the expectation of being one of the best kickers in the country. Will Reichard was named to multiple preseason All-American teams (including the Sports Illustrated second team), and was named to the preseason watch list for the Lou Groza Award.

Reichard has not disappointed through three games, making all four of his field goal attempts and all 10 of his extra points. He helped keep Alabama in the game against Texas, hitting three field goals including a season-long 51-yarder. Reichard has now hit a 50+ yard field goal in four straight seasons for Alabama Football. He has also recorded 14 touchbacks on his 17 kickoffs in 2023.

Like Reichard, punt returner Kool-Aid McKinstry was named to several preseason All-American teams, both as a return specialist and at his primary position of cornerback. McKinstry hasn’t gotten a lot of clean return opportunities this season, but he was able to show his electric open-field talent on a season-long 33 yard punt return against Middle Tennessee State.

Alabama Football: Special Teams miscues against USF

In its most recent game against South Florida, special teams was more of a hindrance than an advantage for Alabama Football.

First, a rare McKinstry mistake cost the Crimson Tide three first quarter points. The return man mishandled a wobbly punt when it took a bizarre bounce, and USF recovered the live ball in Alabama territory. The Bulls would capitalize on the favorable field position with a field goal, which would prove to be the home team’s only points of the afternoon.

On the ensuing kickoff, fellow cornerback Terrion Arnold would run the kick back 100 yards for an Alabama touchdown, only for the score to be negated by a holding penalty.

In a matter of minutes, special teams errors by Alabama Football resulted in a 10-point swing in favor of the opposition. Against a more formidable opponent, such swings could cost the Crimson Tide a game.

Last season, the Tide dropped a narrow decision to rival Tennessee. The loss could have been attributed to mistakes in every phase of the game, but among the most memorable were a missed field goal and a muffed punt eerily similar to the one McKinstry committed against USF.

While Bama’s week three special teams mistakes could be considered a red flag, this doesn’t appear to be an issue that will plague Alabama Football this season.

Next. Can Alabama lean on its defense?. dark

Special teams can be very unpredictable, but I expect they are more likely to help rather than hurt the Tide in close games going forward.