Nov. 25, 2008
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The special teams units could play a huge role in the outcome of Saturday’s Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa.
Both Alabama and Auburn have excelled on special teams this season and both teams have three kick returns for touchdowns in 2008. Alabama junior Javier Arenas has two punt returns for touchdowns this season, including an 86-yard punt return against Tulane and an 80-yard return against Mississippi State.
“I think special teams will be big in the game,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said at his Monday news conference. “I don’t think there is any question about that. Their kickoff return team is one of the best in the country. They’ve got a good punt returner themselves.”
Auburn leads the SEC and ranks fourth nationally with a 26.1-yard kickoff return average. Tristan Davis leads the SEC with 29.1-yard kickoff return average this season. He has two touchdowns. Robert Dunn tops the SEC with a 17-yard punt return average and one touchdown this year.
“I always think that in special teams you control the vertical field position in the game by how you do on special teams, whether it’s drive start on kickoff or kickoff return; whether it’s changing the field position a little bit with your punting or punt return. All of those things are critical factors.
“You know, scoring in the red zone sometimes with field goals can have a big impact in the game. I think special teams will have a huge impact in this game and I think it’s critical that we play at our best. I think we have improved on special teams throughout the course of the year, but that’s something that we will need to continue to do and have one of best games against a team like Auburn has.”
Alabama junior Marquis Johnson, who plays on three special teams units, says the special teams can affect the outcome of any game.
“We’ve worked hard this week, but no harder than any other week,” Johnson said following Tuesday’s practice. “Special teams are a part of the game. Field goals, field position or a decent return all play big roles in the game. One play on special teams can give a team the momentum it needs in a game.”
TUESDAY PRACTICE: Alabama practiced for two hours in full pads Tuesday afternoon at the Thomas-Drew Practice Facility.
NATIONAL TV: CBS Sports will televise the Alabama-Auburn game this Saturday from Tuscaloosa. The game will kickoff at 2:30 p.m. (CST). Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (analyst) and Tracy Wolfson (sideline reporter) will call the action to a national audience. The Auburn game will be Alabama’s ninth televised game of the season and eighth national telecast. CBS will be televising its 10th Iron Bowl this Saturday from Bryant-Denny Stadium.