Meet Ty Perine, the walk-on hoping to solve Alabama's punting woes
The punt was met with a loud “Oh my gosh” and later left current NFL punters shaking their heads. During a training session this summer, Ty Perine lined up at the 35-yard line and unleashed a sky-scraping boot that hung in the air for 5.5 seconds before dropping inside the opposite 5-yard line.
“He’s the first punter I’ve seen at 18 years old to hit a ball that went 5.5 seconds,” said Mike McCabe, the founder of One On One Kicking who trains Perine in Birmingham, Ala. “His upside’s amazing, I mean nobody does that.”
Perine’s eye-popping punt was especially impressive considering the average hang time in the NFL is close to 4.7 seconds. It’s kicks like those that earned the Prattville native a preferred walk-on spot at Alabama and why there’s a bit of buzz around his name at the moment.
Perine, who played soccer and handled punting and kicking duties for Prattville High School, turned down a scholarship offer from Army as well as a preferred walk-on opportunity at Florida State to join Alabama this summer. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound freshman rotated with starting punter Skyler DeLong during warmups last week but has yet to punt in a game for the Crimson Tide.
Although, with the current state of Alabama’s punting game, it might be worth giving Perine a look.
McCabe, a former All-American punter at Illinois State University, founded One on One Kicking in 2002. Since then, he’s produced an impressive list of alumni including current NFL players in Los Angeles Rams all-pro punter Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Chargers punter Ty Long and Tennessee Titans placekicker Cairo Santos. Along with Perine, McCabe also trains Alabama freshman kicker/punter Will Reichard, redshirt freshman walk-on kicker/punter Trip Slyman and walk-on freshman punter Jack Martin.
McCabe didn’t get his hands on Perine until June of last year but said he’s already seen drastic improvement. He called Perine one of the most athletic players he’s ever coached and believes it won’t be long until the young punter begins to show his true potential.
“He’s progressively just getting better and better,” McCabe said. “He’s a young man that was the fastest player on the Prattville football team. He runs a 4.4. With the speed of his leg and being able to drive his body up through the ball, he can be one hell of a nice gem for that team as he progresses and keeps getting better.”
Alabama could certainly use the help. Heading into Saturday, the Crimson Tide ranked No. 127 of 130 Division I teams, averaging 35.45 yards per punt. Skyler DeLong has particularly struggled, averaging 33.8 yards on his eight attempts, with two punts traveling fewer than 25 yards. Those numbers are trending in the wrong direction as the sophomore has averaged 29.6 yards on his five punts over the past three games.
“It’s not been what we’d like for it to be,” head coach Nick Saban said of the punting game this week. “We need to develop a little bit more consistency at the position. There has been competition at the position. These guys are very capable. I just think they’ve got to be able to execute when it’s game time and go out there and do a little bit better job for us, which we certainly feel they’re capable of.”
When asked if DeLong would remain the primary punter moving forward, Saban stated, “There’s competition at the position.” However, Alabama’s other scholarship option is Reichard, who missed last week after suffering a hip flexor injury after kicking the tee on a kickoff against Southern Miss. Saban said Reichard will be re-evaluated on Monday to determine whether or not he will be available for next week's game at Texas A&M.
Reichard is averaging 39.67 yards on three punts this season. He’s also 4 of 7 on field goals and 21 of 22 on extra points while recording 22 of his 29 kickoffs for touchbacks. While the freshman is able to handle every aspect of special teams, Alabama had been using him primarily as a kicker to preserve his leg for the season. Given Reichard's current status, it would be surprising if Alabama used him for both kicking and punting duties immediately following his injury.
Could that open the door for Perine to compete with DeLong in the coming weeks?
“Well, everybody on our team competes,” Saban said. “But the two guys that we have an expectation should compete and do the job better are the two guys that have done it so far in the game. But I think everybody on our team competes.”
McCabe said the biggest thing he’s worked on with Perine is consistency. One thing young punters tend to struggle with is overstriding on kicks which takes away from the power they are able to generate. That’s been the root of DeLong’s troubles as the sophomore’s elongated first step has prevented him from connecting with ball at leg lock.
McCabe works on training that out of his punters by placing a soccer goal six yards away from them during practice, forcing them to connect with the ball in roughly three and a quarter yards in order to clear the crossbar. That technique allows the punter to meet the ball with more leverage, producing the type of high-hang-time punts Perine flashed over the summer.
“It’s basically him getting that coordination and that timing down,” McCabe said of Perine. “Once that clicks, it’s like driving a stick shift — you’re not going to forget it. That’s when the balls just start ringing out. He’s got a powerful leg and can hammer kicks.”
That’s an encouraging thought for Alabama and perhaps one the Crimson Tide might consider more if its punting woes continue.
“I think in the next year, he’s going to come out doing some great things,” McCabe said. “Once he gets his consistency down, he has the ability to shock some people.”