ALABAMA FOOTBALL: Special Teams Notebook Here are some notes on the UA special teams heading into the PetroSun Independence Bowl.
ALABAMA SPECIAL TEAMS
Alabama returns all but one of its specialists from last season.
The Crimson Tide’s special teams have shown marked improvement during the 2007 season.
The Tide has already set the school record with 920 kickoff return yards this season. The previous record was 892 yards set in 1970.
Alabama is on the verge of several more kickoff return records heading into the I-Bowl.
The Tide has 43 kickoff returns this season and needs three more to set the single-season record. The current record is 45 kickoff returns set in 1970.
The current 21.4 kickoff return average is just short of the UA single-season Top 10 list.
Alabama ranks second in the SEC and 12th nationally with 13.7 yard punt return average.
The 13.7 punt return average currently ranks third on the school’s single-season Top 10 charts.
The playmaker is sophomore return specialist Javier Arenas (Tampa, Fla.). Arenas is second in the SEC and 7th nationally with a 15.38 yard punt return average.
He suffered a high ankle sprain in the loss to ULM on Nov. 17 and missed the regular season finale at Auburn on Nov. 24. Coach Saban is hopeful Arenas wll be back in the lineup against Colorado in the Independence Bowl.
He is also second nationally with five 50-yard kick returns this season.
For the season, he has 21 punt returns for 323 yards and one touchdown. In 23 career games, he has 52 punt returns for 609 yards and three touchdowns.
He has three punt returns for touchdowns which ties Harry Gilmer for second place all-time at UA. David Palmer (1991-93) owns the school record with four punt return TDs.
Arenas has 24 kickoff returns for 581 yards (24.2 average) this season. In 22 career games, he has 42 kickoff returns for 925 yards.
He has been named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week twice this season against Ole Miss (Oct. 13) and LSU (Nov. 3).
Arenas had a season-best 237 all-purpose yards, including a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown against LSU on Nov. 3. He had a career-high eight returns for 168 yards against LSU.
He had 164 all-purpose yards (93 KOR and 71 PR) against the Rebels.
Arenas also added a season-high 62-yard kickoff return against Tennessee on Oct. 20.
Lowe serves as the primary backup to Arenas in both kickoff returns and punt returns.
He has 14 kickoff returns for 277 yards (19.8 average) this season. He made his Alabama debut with a 23-yard kickoff return and a 17-yard punt return against Western Carolina on Sept. 1.
In addition, Lowe has four punt returns for 51 yards (12.8 average).
Arenas isn’t the only weapon on special teams for the Crimson Tide this season.
Sophomore place kicker Leigh Tiffin (Muscle Shoals, Ala.) is closing in on school records for points by a kicker and field goals made in a season, heading in to the Independence Bowl.
Tiffin has recorded 99 points this season, which leaves him one point shy of the UA single-season record held by Phillip Doyle in 1989.
Tiffin also looks to become the seventh player in school history to tally 100 points in a season. Shaun Alexander holds the record with 144 points (24 TDs) in 1999.
Tiffin has made 22 field goals this season, which leaves him two shy of the single-season record held by Doyle (24 FG) in 1990.
Tiffin is currently tied with Doyle (22 FG, 1990) and Michael Proctor (22 FG, 1993) for second place on the school’s single-season charts.
For the season, he is perfect on 33 extra point attempts and made 22 of 31 field goal attempts.
He is second in the SEC and tied for 5th nationally with 1.83 field goals made per game.
He is also fifth in the league and 40th nationally with 8.25 points per game.
He made nine consecutive field goals from Oct. 20-Nov. 10. His streak ended with a blocked FG attempt against ULM on Nov. 17.
In 17 career games Tiffin has made 45 of 46 extra point attempts and 30 of 44 field goals.
His father, Van (1983-86), was an All-American kicker at Alabama in 1986 and set the UA record with 135 consecutive career extra points.
Sophomore Andrew Friedman (Fairhope, Ala.) made his 2007 season debut with his first career extra point attempt against Arkansas on Sept. 15. He has played in four games at UA.
Tiffin also handles the Crimson Tide’s kickoff duties this season. He has 63 kicks for 3,762 yards, an average of 59.7 yards per kick with four touchbacks.
Senior Jamie Christensen (Norcross, Ga.) serves as Tiffin’s backup on kickoffs. He has three kickoff this season, including a pair of on-side kicks.
Christensen has been a special teams weapon for the Tide during his four-year career. He has converted 42 of 44 extra point attempts and 29 of 42 field goals.
In 2005, he set an Alabama record with three-game winning field goals to beat Ole Miss, Tennessee and Texas Tech (2006 Cotton Bowl).
Sophomore punter P.J. Fitzgerald (Coral Springs, Fla.) is back for his second year as the Crimson Tide’s punter and holder.
Fitzgerald has punted 60 times for 2,295 yards this season, an average of 38.2 yards per kick.
He has landed 19 kicks inside the 20-yard line and another 13 punts have been fair catches.
He had a career-high 58-yard punt at Vanderbilt on Sept. 8.
Fitzgerald had a career-high 10 punts against Florida State and Houston.
He averaged a career-best 44.8 yards on four punts at Mississippi State (Nov. 10), including a 56-yard punt.
In 22 career games, Fitzgerald has 117 punts for 4,471 yards, an average of 38.2 yards per punt.
He has dropped 37 career punts inside the 20-yard line and another 27 punts have been fair catches.
The Crimson Tide is breaking in its third long snapper in as many years this season as they replace last year’s snapper Luke Spaulding.
Junior Brian Selman (Vestavia Hills, Ala.) has handled all snapping duties this year.