Alabama has returned some of its quickest options

Alabama has returned some of its quickest options ...

When Jameson Williams pulled the repeat against Southern Miss, Alabama's special teams had the game-breaking potential a year ago.

While Josh Earle wasn't injured, persistent blocking penalties damaged a few electric runs from the freshman receiver Nick Saban, according to Jaylen Waddle.

Alabama is preparing for its first-round draft after completing those special teams a year later.

I believe were much more competitive in the kicking game, Saban said Thursday, ahead of the Saturday A-Day Game in Tuscaloosa at 2 p.m. CT. It's very encouraging. I like the enthusiasm and strength we have shown in the kicking game. We've really made a lot of players stronger in the kicking game.

Earle is back in charge of the punt return team after averaging 5.9 yards on the 15 returns that counted last year with a long of 29 yards. Slade Bolden, now pursuing the NFL, had the other 15 for an average of 6.2 yards with a long of 25.

Earle had a spooked punt in the second quarter of the Cotton Bowl win over Cincinnati. Kool-Aid McKinstry recovered the loose ball deep in Alabama territory to avoid a disaster, but the last time Earle was the punt returner last season.

McKinstry is also competing for the job, according to Saban, along with Georgia forward Jermaine Burton, who had not made a punt return in his two seasons in Athens.

Another transfer has experience in the kickoff return category.

With a return average of 25.6 yards, running back Jahmyr Gibbs was no. 23 nationally at Georgia Tech. That included a 98-yard touchdown against Boston College.

Aaron Anderson, a freshman who had a great run-and-catch play in Alabama's first scrimmage, is also impressing at the kickoff return. Edna Karr High School product has fantastic speed in his 5-foot-9, 185-pound frame.

Weve got a lot of people who we are working but we aren't really trying to make any final decisions right now about who we think would be the best, Saban said. We're just trying to make each one of them.

Michael Casagrande is a reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter or on social media.

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