If it weren’t for Alabama’s Special Teams…
A vast number of College Football pundits, Tide fans, opposing fans, and others have used the phrase “If it weren’t for Bama’s special teams’ play” ad naseum throughout the past year. So let’s for a minute pretend that Alabama’s offense is riddled with 5 stars and the SEC Offensive Player of the year at quarterback. Let’s pretend non-offensive touchdowns– or NOTS – haven’t become as much a part of Alabama’s consistent strategy as the Hurry Up No Huddle (HUNH) offense was for Auburn in 2011. The fact would still remain, Alabama’s special teams is exhibiting a type of dominance on the football field rarely seen in sports. So, Alabama must continue to make plays on special teams consistently, whether they are playing LSU or Fresno State.
It is no longer a fluke
It is no longer a fluke, a lucky play or even a a play that was just practiced.. Now, it was all hands on deck when it comes to covering kickoffs, punts, field goals and everything else. Point in case: Alabama’s huge blocked field goal last week against Florida State. Head Coach Nick Saban’s only words of guidance at the moment (the rest had been implemented in practice countless time) were:
“All right,” Saban said, “let’s go after it.”
According to starting RB Damien Harris in the post-game interview:
“We were bringing the house. All 11 players lining up knew it. When Florida State reached third-and-5, the group encircled special teams coach Joe Pannunzio, who relayed the call from Nick Saban.”
Up by 3 against the No. 3 team in the country late in the third quarter, Alabama needed a big play. And that came in the form of a blocked punt by the starting RB Damien Harris.
“We’d practiced it all week. We knew if we lined up a certain way, they would block it a certain way and that would leave a running alley for someone to go in and get the block. We didn’t know who it would be.” – Damien Harris
A Team Effort
While Harris blocked the punt, five-star early-enrollee Dylan Moses recovered it. The first to congratulate the pair was running back Najee Harris — the best high school prospect in the 2017 recruiting class.
Alabama has become known for playing their stars on special teams.
“Coach always preaches all the star players play special teams,” said Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama’s starting middle linebacker. “Those were pretty game-changing on Saturday. It’s important that we take special teams just as seriously as offense and defense.”
Hamilton, a projected All-American himself, also plays on the kickoff return. Standout receiver Calvin Ridley joins him, along with duties on the punt return team. Ridley exemplifies Saban’s limit on how many Special Team units he allows his starters to play on.
“We try not to play any starter on more than two special teams,” Saban said. “Our guys have realized the importance of playing special teams and they know how it can impact a game.”
Against Florida State
The Tide’s three special teams plays against Florida State directly produced 10 Crimson Tide points and prevented three for the Seminoles. This would seem like a fluke, if it didn’t happen game after game– including last week against Fresno State.
That’s what separates Alabama from everyone else.
And it’s having players of that caliber approach playing in all three facets of the game with the right attitude that has led to the success the nation’s No. 1 team seen on the field under Saban.
“Coach Saban always talks about how everybody has a role — offensive, defense, special teams, and sometimes it might even be both,” Harris said. “So guys are just willing to do anything, sell out, do anything to make a play, whether it’s offensively, defensively, special teams. I just think that we have those kind of guys with that kind of mindset that’s willing to do anything to help the team win.”
Special Teams are truly special at Alabama. You can tell because the special players play on the punt return, kickoff coverage, and all of the other special teams. You could say it’s a special part of The Process.
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