College Football Playoff: Scouting Alabama’s Special Teams


The Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff tomorrow. We want to be as best prepared as we can be for the game so we did some quick scouting of Alabama to share with you today, hopefully you will remember after tonight’s New Year’s festivities.

We start with a look at their Special Teams.

Alabama’s special teams is coached by Bobby Williams, who interestingly is also the Crimson Tide’s tight end coach as well. Williams is a Nick Saban guy. He coached with Saban at Michigan State, LSU and in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins.

Early this season the ‘Bama special teams were a big cause for concern:

Bleacher Report

"Otherwise, Alabama’s special teams play was a complete abomination Saturday night in Fayetteville and a big reason why Arkansas was able to hang around so long and get so many chances to stay alive in the game.And after a game in which a late special teams blunder ended up losing it the game, poor special teams play is becoming a disturbing trend lately for Alabama."

Montgomery Advertiser (Local Coverage)

Before the game that B/R is referencing:

"Coverage on kicks, quality returns and missed kicks.A full slate of corrections were needed for the Alabama football team’s special teams after last weekend.The seventh-ranked Crimson Tide hopes to have them fine-tuned in time for Saturday afternoon’s SEC West Division clash at Arkansas."


"“All the areas of special teams to me are areas that we’re capable of playing better,” Saban said on Monday. “We need to play better and we have a lot of young players out there that need to make better decisions about when they block — is it a block in the back, when do I not block because I’m going to block the guy in the back, when do I two-gap a blocker instead of dodging the blocker.”"

More from Ohio State Buckeyes

So early in the season the Crimson Tide’s struggles on special teams were very clear. Since then, like most things that Nick Saban is involved in, mostly crickets. When Saban puts his mind to something it general gets improved pretty quickly. Yet they haven’t been perfect as their season stats show:

Alabama ranks 63rd in field goals made going 14 of 22 for a 64% mark. Their long is 47 yards on the season and their kicker has missed one inside 30 yards, 3 inside 40 and only attempted 1 beyond 50 yards. He has also missed 2 extra points.

Alabama also ranks 41st in total kickoff yards, though that is impacted a bit by their stubborn defense that doesn’t allow a ton of points. But their return average is actually worse, ranked 54th in the country at 21.5 yards per return. Compare that to the Buckeyes at 21st in the country with a 23.3 yard per return average. While two yards doesn’t seem like a lot, it can add up over the course of a game.

Ohio State also has a 2 yard difference in punt return average at 11.7 a game compared to Bama’s 9.7. Alabama’s punting, average of 47 yards per punt, outdistances the Buckeyes by almost the same 2 yards, 45.1. The Crimson Tide punted 9 times more than the Buckeyes did this season, likely due to the offensive differences of the two teams.

Obviously Alabama has had some concerns on their special teams and it should be an area that Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes have a distinct advantage. Unlikely many coaches, Meyer plays the best players he has on special teams. Starting corners, running backs and wide receiver are also running down punts and kicks as well as returning them. They have been doing that all season and the consistency should really help give the Buckeyes an advantage.

While just a small part of the College Football Playoff, how important do you think special teams will be to the game tomorrow?

Next: Braxton Miller to Florida State?

Next: But Urban thinks Miller is Returning