Preseason talk was not kind when it came to discussion of the Alabama kicking game. All of the top…
Shelley Fine Being 'Accurate Kicker'
Alabama had to replace an All-America placekicker this year. Leigh Tiffin finished his record-breaking career for the Crimson Tide. Bama signed a placekicker in the freshman class, and conventional wisdom had it that the scholarshipped kicker would have the job. That proved to be only partly correct.
For some reason, Jeremy Shelley didn't have much respect in the pre-season Alabama guesswork. But Shelley, a 5-10, 165-pound sophomore from Raleigh, North Carolina, has worked out well. In fact, even though he doesn't get all the field goal opportunities, Shelley is Alabama's leading scorer this year.
Shelley made 43 of 44 extra point kicks and 12 of 16 field goals (with a long of 42 yards) for 79 points.
Alabama Coach Nick Saban was not surprised. "Jeremy was realliy consistent from the 25-yard line in," Saban said.
Meanwhile freshman Cade Foster was the kickoff man and long field goal specialist. Saban said, "Cade did a great job for us kicking off. He did a really good job on the long field goals. I think those two guys sort of together did a very good job for us." Foster made 7-9 field goals with a long of 49.
Saban added, "We feel really good to have two quality guys at that position, who both can be very good performers in the future. One guy's pretty consistent right now, probably doesn't have the leg strength of the other guy. The other guy did a really good job kicking off for us this year and on long field goals. We're not surprised by anything. We're kind of pleased with what both guys were able to contribute."
The accurate guy is Shelley and the long kicker is Cade. Does Shelley feel typecast?
"Maybe," he said. "But I don't see it as a bad typecast. I'd be more than happy to be labeled as an accurate kicker."
Shelley's next opportunity to contribute will be in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on January 1. Alabama, 9-3, will play against Michigan State, 11-1, at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium with kickoff at noon CST and television coverage by ESPN.
Shelley said his range is "probably up to 55," and that he had a successful 51-yard kick as a sophomore in high school. But, he added, "We're comfortable with the way things are, with me hitting the closer range and then with Cade's big leg and big body coming through with some longer ones."
Although it seemed that Shelley tried longer field goals as the season went on, the kicker said, "We had pretty much the same set standards (Shelley when the ball was on or inside the 25, Foster when the ball was on the 26 and out). It's just that the attempts fell into the right place where they would be my longer ones. I've been fortunate enough to attempt and hit some of the longer field goals."
Shelley said he had enjoyed the competition with Foster. "We're good friends," he said. "Of course, you're still competing with each other. I honestly have really loved competing. Last year it was against Leigh (Tiffin) and he had the spot, but I still competed with him. Competition improves you both and it has me and Cade, tremendously."
Shelley said he had learned a lot from Tiffin, both "to always fight for what I'm doing and the small aspects of kicking. He's a very good guy to look up to when it came to what I needed to be doing coming into college football."
When and if Michigan State lines up for a field goal, almost everyone will be reminded of the fake field goal play the Spartans used to beat Notre Dame earlier in the season. Shelley said he had seen the play, and added "I'd love to pull something like that."
He's less likely to want to emulate a characteristic of his Alabama competitor, the 6-1, 221-pound Foster, who was also a linebacker in high school. "It's a huge benefit for us on kickoff (coverage)," Shelley said. "We have an 11th man down there tackling. A lot of specialists aren't able to do what he's able to do on kickoff coverage. Even in the pros, college, everywhere. Having that in our coverage scheme really helps us a lot."
Last year's Capital One Bowl game between LSU and Penn State is memorable primarily for the condition of the field. Heavy use, new grass turf, and soggy weather contributed to a surface that was all but unplayable last year. This year the field is covered in artificial Field Turf, and Shelley is glad about that. [Field] Turf is a pretty simple surface to get used to, to get adjusted to. It should work out for us."
While on the subject of stadiums, Shelley was asked if the new South end zone upper deck at Bryant-Denny Stadium had changed the wind patterns. Predictably, Shelley said, "It really seems like the wind is a little duller than it was last year. It kind of seems like it closed it off at that end, where you don't have the spiral coming through. But as far as patterns go, it's pretty much the same direction that it stays at, coming toward the (Alabama entrance) tunnel for the most part. It's just maybe a little lighter, not as strong on certain occasions."
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