ATLANTA — Several questions were answered early, and in true freshman Will Reichard’s case, often, about Alabama’s special teams’ personnel Saturday.
Here are some of the things we learned during the Tide’s 42-3 opening game win over Duke:
Hoover native Reichard is going to be a very busy man if Saturday’s pattern holds. He handled every punt, kick-off, PAT and field goal attempt, even though Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban had hinted we might see sophomore punter Skyler DeLong at times. That was not the case Saturday.
For the day, Reichard was 6-for-6 on extra points but, to the chagrin of Bama Nation missed a pair of field goals. The first was 49-yard field goal attempt that hit the right upright. The second miss was a 48-yard effort that hit the left upright.
Reichard punted twice for a 40-yard average. He kicked off seven times, all for touchbacks. All in all, not a bad debut. His coach noticed it.
“Will (Reichard) did great. He kicked a lot of touchbacks, which shows his leg strength,” Saban said.
“I think he hit both field goals that he hit, he really hit well. It's a little unlucky that both of them hit the pole, but hopefully he'll be able to gain confidence and improve on that in the future.”
In the return game, it was expected that sophomore Jaylen Waddle would handle punt returns and he did. Waddle was not able to return any of Duke punter Austin Parker’s six kicks. Most were fair caught due to hang time. One in the final quarter was shanked and Waddle backed off it.
What was not known was who would be back as the primary returner on kickoffs. That turned out to be junior receiver Henry Ruggs III, who returned one of Duke’s two kicks for 22 yards.
Ruggs’ first primary blocker on one of Duke’s kick-offs was senior Trevon Diggs, but that was likely due to the one quarter suspension served by junior Brian Robinson. Robinson was back as Ruggs’ blocker on the Blue Devils other kick, a touchback.
From a coverage standpoint, the Tide was solid all day. Duke had no attempts on kick-off returns due to Reichard’s touchbacks. On punt returns, the Blue Devils attempted one for three yards.
Junior long snapper Thomas Fletcher made the tackle on Duke’s lone punt return. Due to Reichard’s touchback streak, no tackles were credited on kick-offs.