Saban explains expectations for Alabama’s new 6-6 Australian punter

The bulk of the conversation about Alabama replacing lost talent is devoted to the offense. And for good reason, considering the sheer quantity and quality of players now chasing NFL dreams.

There’s a decent amount to replace among the special teams, too.

Kicker Will Reichard is back from his perfect season but Alabama will be replacing the punter, punt returners and a chunk of those who returned kickoffs.

At punter, Charlie Scott averaged 39.2 yards while getting 22 of the 32 attempts a year ago. Now that he moved on, sophomore Sam Johnson’s the only holdover to attempt a punt last year, averaging 35.4 yards in his 10 tries.

Alabama also added transfer Jack Martin from Troy and Australian James Burnip. Saban said “both guys” punted well in Saturday’s scrimmage without specifying which two. Asked specifically about Burnip, Saban explained some of his background since he is the first of the Aussie punters to land at Alabama.

The 6-foot-6, 216-pound Burnip is not just a converted rugby player, Saban said while noting “he has punted a football before.”

“And really, we’re not asking him to play football,” Saban said. “We’re asking him to punt it. And he did a pretty good job of that today. And I’m sure that being a young guy as he gets more comfortable, more experienced and more confident, he’ll even do better probably from a consistency standpoint.”

At the punt returner spot, Alabama lost first-round picks DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. Slade Bolden had seven of the 20 punt returns for an average of 7.0 yards a try as the only one back.

Saban earlier this week said the audition for that role is still “a work in progress.” He listed a few newcomers who are getting a look including highly-rated receivers JoJo Earle and Ja’Corey Brooks. Both have “shown some promise,” in practice so far.

And with kickoffs, Saban said Ohio State Jameson Williams and five-star freshman running back Camar Wheaton have been back there along with “other running backs.” Tight end Jahleel Billingsley had the most kickoff returns last year with five for an average of 17.8 yards.

“A little bit more to choose from than we had a year ago, depth-wise,” Saban said Wednesday.

Michael Casagrande is a reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @ByCasagrande or on Facebook.