08 July 2008
| PJ Fitzgerald - #97 – P – 5-11 – 194 lbs. – Coral Springs, FL – Stoneman Douglas HS – 2 Varsity Letters
One of 2 contributing walk-on players in the Junior class, PJ will be the punter for the 3rd consecutive season at Alabama. He improved from his Freshman to Sophomore season, and will hopefully continue to show that improvement in his junior season.
The odd thing about PJ’s numbers is that despite having only a mediocre career punting average of 38.4 yards per kick, the difference between his punting and net punting average is considerably smaller than most kickers – just 2.7 yards.
Obviously some of the credit for that goes to the coverage team, but a large part has to go to PJ. While he could stand to add 5 yards (or more) to his average length, he typically gets good hang-time on his kicks, which allows the coverage unit ample time to set up and be in position to stop the return.
The other interesting note on PJ is that nearly 1/3 of his career kicks have been downed inside the opponents’ 20 yard line. That obviously means that the Bama offense has stalled around the 50 yard line too many times, but it also indicates that PJ has some skill at pinning the ball deep.
: It is crucial for Alabama that they get more consistent punting from PJ this year. If the A-Day game is any indication, then Bama fans may have what they are looking for. There were no punt returns, so there are no net punting numbers, but strictly raw stats wise, he punted 6 times for an average of 43.3 yards. Even if you take out his long punt of 52 yards he still averaged 41.5 per kick on the other 5.
If PJ can somehow get his numbers up above 40 yards, and the Tide can continue to cover punts as well as they have, it will be a huge advantage to a young defense. The biggest thing will still be consistency. Having 50+ boomers is great, but if they are backed up by 32 yard shanks, then it makes things difficult.
PJ has been guilty of having some of his worst punts come at the worst times, giving Bama’s opponents short fields when the Tide desperately needed a great punt. It is easy to forget that PJ was starting as a Freshman, though. He has continued to grow in his role, and as a Junior I expect we’ll more composure out of him.