Alabama Football Depth Chart Predictions: Special Teams

Alabama v Auburn
Alabama v Auburn / Michael Chang/GettyImages

An often overlooked facet of the game, special teams were a major strength for Alabama Football in the 2023 season. Though college football’s all-time leading scorer departs from the program, Bama reloaded via the portal and should once again be very good on special teams.


1. Graham Nicholson (Senior)

2. Conor Talty (Redshirt Freshman)

Will Reichard moves on, but Alabama replaces him with perhaps the only kicker in the country that had a better 2023 season. Lou Groza Award winner Graham Nicholson, formerly of Miami (Ohio), joins the Crimson Tide roster as a plug-and-play starter at kicker. With Nicholson in the boat, Bama will have one of the best kickers in the country for the fifth consecutive season and should be able to maximize its scoring possessions. 

Talty was a highly regarded recruit in the class of 2023, but the redshirt freshman needs more time to develop. The presence of Nicholson buys him another year. 


1. James Burnip (Redshirt Senior)

Burnip returns as one of college football’s top specialists. The Aussie is back for his fourth year as the starting punter and holder for the Crimson Tide. In 2023, he was named a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the nation’s top punter. The Alabama offense hopes to punt less than it did last season, but it always helps to have a field position weapon like Burnip on deck. 

Long Snapper

1. Kneeland Hibbett (Senior)

Like Nicholson and Burnip, Hibbett is one of the best in the country at his position. He was named first team All-SEC last season, and will be a fourth-year starter this fall. With Hibbett rounding out this trio of veterans, Bama’s field goal and punt units should both be extremely reliable.

Kick Returner

1. Kendrick Law (Junior)

2. Jaylen Mbakwe (Freshman)

Law led the Crimson Tide with 17 kickoff returns for 405 yards last season. Given his experience, it’s easy to see him serving in this role again. Law looked like a big play waiting to happen in the 2023 season, but never quite broke one (due in part to a questionable holding call in the Iron Bowl). I expect him to deliver some explosive touchdowns this season, and some could very well come on special teams. 

The Tide also has some electric young playmakers waiting in the wings. What better way is there to get an athlete like Jaylen Mbakwe involved than by letting him field a few kicks? Mbakwe may need some time before he can crack the starting lineup at cornerback, and he is well-versed as a return specialist from his high school days at Clay-Chalkville.

Punt Returner

1. Germie Bernard (Junior)

2. Ryan Williams (Freshman)

Bernard is an experienced return man who has fielded both punts and kickoffs during his first two seasons of college football. Given that no one who returned a punt for Alabama in 2023 is still on the roster, Bernard is probably the most reliable option here, at least to start the season. 

Late last year, the Tide inserted true freshman Caleb Downs as its punt returner, and Downs promptly took one to the house. Perhaps another big-time freshman like Ryan Williams could assume the same role in 2024.