Here’s a little tidbit from a USA Today story about how Dabo Swinney went about fixing Clemson’s special teams’ shortcomings after last year’s national title game.
Though Alabama’s trouble converting field goals over the years receives a disproportionate amount of attention, the Crimson Tide are largely excellent on special teams because the depth of talent allows for Saban to employ several former five-star recruits — some of whom are a year away from being front-line players — on coverage teams. The Crimson Tide haven’t yielded a kickoff return score since the 2014 season opener and only had two punts returned for touchdowns in the last four seasons. Meanwhile, over the same span, Alabama has scored 12 special teams touchdowns.
The Crimson Tide were able to exploit that advantage last year against Clemson, which ranked 115th in kickoff coverage defense and gave up three touchdowns, revealing the overall immaturity of Clemson’s roster as a national contender.
Hey, guess who was 115th in kickoff coverage in 2016?
Therein lies the rub for Kirby Smart, who certainly saw first hand in Tuscaloosa what all that incoming talent built on Alabama’s coverage and return teams. But as Clemson showed, that doesn’t happen overnight. Then again, Clemson improved to 48th nationally this season.
Anyway, read the article in its entirety to see what Swinney did last offseason to address the problem. I don’t doubt that Kirby will take a hard look at shoring up an area of real weakness, one that cost his team a win or two. Whether the fix takes or not is just another thing we’ll have to watch for.
10 responses to “One thing talented depth will get you”
Well, at least we didn’t have a missed FG returned for a TD. We gack up near certain victories in more conventional ways.
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115th in kickoff coverage. Worse (126th / 121st) in the punting game.
Saban (and by extension) Kirby haven’t really worried about special teams because as the article says, they out-talent everyone. Except when it comes to kicking. Alabama hasn’t had a great kicker that I can remember since Saban has been there. I can remember their kicker losing games for him, though. I hope Kirby isn’t playing the same game with our kicking game. Either Blankenship is the answer and we need to make sure he stays, or Kirby goes and gets a better replacement. Same for punting. Ramsey seemed to regress this year over last year. Both areas are critical.
It also helps to have a kicker who can get height and depth on his kicks, which Kirby pointed out by saying he was “terrified” over our kicking situation, but that would not fit with the Senator’s narrative about a throwaway year.
If you can kick the ball consistently to the goal line with reasonable height, a team should be able to keep a team from starting outside the 25 regularly. What I saw were coverage guys who didn’t seem to understand the concept of “stay in your lane.” We would kick between the right hash and the sideline, and multiple times the returner would take the ball across the field for a big return. Sorry, but that’s not the kicker’s fault … that’s back side containment. Whether that’s due to poor coaching, a failure to execute, or guys getting blocked, it’s pretty much unacceptable.
Good post. We were abysmal at both coverage and blocking on returns. Having available athletes should not be an issue in 2017 so let’s hope we have a plan to address both.
When I saw WR Reggie Davis on the kick-off team (I’m not talking about the k.o. receiving team) I knew we had awful ST coaching. With all our DBs, why in heck would we use a WR who rarely, if ever, tackled an opposing player? It wasn’t just an example of lousy coaching. It was an example of lousy use of the talent we have available.
We all saw plenty of examples of poor coaching during the season. But the Davis thing stands out to me as one of the worst I’ve ever seen in a lifetime of watching cfb.
Not just rarely tackles anyone but a guy who’s barely bigger than IMac … ugh!
I want linebackers and defensive backs in kickoff coverage. They understand containment and leverage, should have good fundamental, open field tackling skills, and understand how to defeat blockers in space..
Special team the real Achilles Heel of the Dawgs.
Play more starters/2nd string on special teams until the depth is there.