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August 16, 2012TUSCALOOSA | University of Alabama kickers Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster have platooned in a shared role for the last two seasons.
Whether they continue to do so remains to be seen.
UA coach Nick Saban described the competition at the position Thursday -- among Foster, Shelley and incoming freshman Adam Griffith -- as an open one.
"We're giving a lot of equal opportunity whether it's kicking or kickoff and we're evaluating on a daily basis," Saban said. "We really want to be fair and we don't really have any favorites."
Foster has been Alabama's choice for longer field goals and kickoffs the last two seasons. He was 2 of 9 on field goal tries last year, though four of those attempts came from beyond 50 yards. Shelley has handled shorter field goals and extra points, and was 21 of 27 on field goal tries last season, 21 of those coming from under 40 yards.
Griffith, of Calhoun, Ga., was part of Alabama's 2012 signing class.
Saban said their performances are being evaluated daily, particularly in team drills. Distance and hang time on their kickoffs is being charted daily as well.
"When this is all over, we'll have to make some determination some time before the first game how we're going to manage that," Saban said. "Consistency is going to be the key for each one of those guys. ... There's a lot of competition there and that's probably a good thing."
Another special teams role that needs filling are the gunners on the punt unit, a role held last year by Dre Kirkpatrick, who was a first-round NFL Draft choice. Gunners line up near the sideline on the punt team and are expected to be the first defenders to reach the punt returner.
"I think straight-line speed is really important. Ability to release the block on the guy that's trying to hold you up. ... Once you beat him with your release, you can get on top of him with your speed," Saban said. "You've got to be a pretty good tackler, but if you're fast enough and you get down there fast enough then they're going to fair catch it. Then you don't have to be such a good tackler."
Saban mentioned no potential names for the role, but said several are being tried. "Big, fast guys," he said.
Clinton-Dix dishes on nickname
UA sophomore safety Ha'sean Clinton-Dix, who goes by the nickname 'Ha Ha', said the shortened name has been with him since childhood.
"Ha Ha, my grandmother has been calling me that since I was a little kid, so it's just been a little kid thing," he said. "I love it. Coach loves it. Everyone loves it, so Ha Ha, that's what I go with."
Clinton-Dix is competing for a role in the secondary after being primarily a special teams player as a freshman last year.
Asked to name the funniest and most serious player in the UA locker room Thursday, running back Eddie Lacy gave the nod to wide receiver Christion Jones for the former, and linebacker Nico Johnson for the latter. Lacy praised Jones' impersonation of UA tight ends coach Bobby Williams. As for Johnson: "Nico's the most serious," Lacy said. "But I guess that just comes with the defense mentality. You have to be serious to play defense."
Lacy, whose carries were limited in last week's scrimmage while he completes recovery from a toe injury, said he is uncertain whether they will be limited again in Alabama's second scrimmage Saturday. ... Saban said he does not expect the new kickoff rule, which spots kickoffs five yards closer to the goal line and calls for touchbacks spotted at the 25, to affect how Alabama handles kickoff returns. As for his opponents: "Until you live it, you don't know for sure how it's going to affect the game," Saban said. ... Alabama's practices of late are focusing more on what Saban called "game-type situations," so that players know how to respond to various scenarios. ... Saban indicated wide receiver Kenny Bell has been dealing with nagging injuries during the preseason. ... UA will continue practice Friday at 2:30 p.m. in preparation for a Saturday scrimmage at 1 p.m. at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.