college football, kickers

Does Nick Saban hate kickers?

…happiest I’ve ever been in my life…

CFP, BCS, it doesn’t matter. Nick Saban has figured out how to get his team into championship game and win – four of the last eight championships belong to his Crimson Tide. And Saban has six total championships, tying the all time record. Amazing. Let me hit you with some crazy numbers. His ALL TIME coaching record is 223 wins, 62 losses, one tie, which is a .781 win percentage. That is insane. Since 2010 his record is 99 and 12. (Yeah…Sure, he has only had one undefeated record at Alabama. But remember strength of schedule and all that bogus crap… blah, blah, blah.)

He knows how to recruit and that is the majority of CFB. It is probably like 70% or more of the game. I think most of the top programs are the same in college in terms of scheming, game planning, etc. What makes the real difference is getting the right talent on the field and Bama has been ranked #1 or #2 in recruiting from 2011 to 2017.

He missed?!

Nick’s career and mastery of the college game all rolled through my head as I watched one of the worst field goal misses in this year’s national championship. The set up was a 10 play, 48 yard series eating up 2:55 of the clock. With just three seconds remaining in regulation, Andy Pappanastos, a transfer Senior comes onto the field, who has already missed a 40 yard field goal in the first quarter, to attempt a walk-off win. It was a 36 yard field goal, well within Pappanastos’ range and really any college kicker.

If we are splitting hairs on the play the snap is a little high, but the holder gets it down and the laces are out. By all accounts its clean to that point and then the kick. Pappanastos just punches it wide. (For a brief moment I thought Bama might actually lose…I got that feeling again after Tua got sacked for like -1,000 yards to begin Alabama’s possession of overtime as well). How does an Alabama kicker miss? Who is this human? How did he get here? Is Saban going to murder him?

Here is what we know about Nick:

  1. He can recruit any kid he wants.
  2. This past championship was the happiest he’s ever been in his life.
  3. A kicker almost lost this historical championship game.

I don’t know Nick. Shocking, I know. But I don’t think he would be fun to hang out with either. From the little I gather from watching him, I think he hates kickers. I think he doesn’t view them as football players. Kickers are necessary evils to the game. So ingrained into the game because of time there is no way to rid them from the sport. I think he would agree wholeheartedly with Skip Bayless. Nick hates kickers.

Being average isn’t good

I am about to drop some knowledge on you – Alabama is the best college football program in the country. People can argue about scheduling (and while it might be valid that Alabama purposely schedule weak opponents late in the season and don’t play the same amount of conference games as others conferences. etc.) it doesn’t matter. In the college football world, Alabama has it figured out. Now that we got that out of the way, a significant part of how they got here is striving for perfection. They work at it. Saban doesn’t strike me as a guy who is cool with players half assing a practice.

And this effort + talent shows; not only with championships, but also in that Alabama crushes most of their opponents year in and year out. They beat opponents by finishing drives with touchdowns. Saban doesn’t want threes. Every field goal is a reminder that his offense didn’t get a TD. They fell short on the drive. But none the less he doesn’t just throw scrubs on the field.

Pappanastos was a three star recruit. As far as I can tell that’s the highest a kicker can get. Saban gets talent. He gets whoever he wants, right? Just like his next commit who can hit from 70 yards. Stars should translate to better performance. Pappanastos finished this year ranked 68 in the country in percentage with 72% and above average field goal points with 54. It’s not impressive. It’s also not bad. It is serviceable. Let’s put these figures in a ratio and compare him to kickers that had 25 or more attempts. I highlighted him in yellow.

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The PTS/FGA is another way to see the how PCT affected performance. This is not what top recruits do. They don’t do average or good. They excel. The average FG% for CF is ~75% for kickers with more than 10 attempts. Nick hates kickers because they don’t live up to the billing.

**Side note – How crazy is Matt Gay’s numbers?! Crazy good and terrible for Utah.

Kick Six

Saban sent out Cade Foster to hit a potential game winning 57 yarder in the 2013 Iron Bowl … Foster was averaging just over 70% that year and had digressed since his Freshman year. He wasn’t automatic by any means. (Foster year by year, Freshman:77.8%, Soph: 22.2%, Junior: 44.4%, Senior: 70.6% – a 53.8% career average. He had at least 9 attempts each year.) The real question to me is… a 57 yarder? Are you kidding me? Who does that to a college kid at low altitudes? You put a person in that position who do not like.

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Yeah, it could Source: al.com

This is the most dramatic missed field goal for Saban, but illustrates that kickers have historically let Saban down. They have never been great (Okay one time he had a really good one, but it didn’t really matter – Jeremy Shelly if you care, who was also 0 star recruit). From 2010 – 2017, Alabama kickers with nine attempts or more have only averaged above 75% twice; 2010 and 2016.

Do not screw up

That 57 yarder in the Iron bowl was a shot in the dark. It wasn’t part of the game plan. A prayer that his specialist could knock it through. However, the kick this year was a perfectly crafted, clock bleeding drive. But before hammering the kicker again, remember that Jalen Hurts, a 25-2 starting QB was pulled at halftime. Pulled. Saban gives you a chance, you better not blow it and if he smells disaster, you are pulled.

So the unfortunate part of being a kicker at Alabama is not only are you supposed to be great, you are supposed to win it in the most crucial part of the game. The opportunities are few and far between to show your grit. As previously shown, Saban doesn’t rely on kickers to produce a ton of points.

I think Saban’s trust has been betrayed enough. You don’t get too many chances. Nick hates kickers.

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Sources:

http://www.ncaa.com/stats/football/fbs/

www.sports-reference.com

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