JK Scott is Alabama's hidden star
Alabama has one of the best players in the country at his position on the roster. He makes a huge impact every game, and he’s the most valuable player the Crimson Tide have on his side of the ball.
No, we’re not talking about Amari Cooper, Alabama’s all-world wide receiver. JK Scott has been the man for the Crimson Tide on special teams this year, a freshman performing like a star.
Just like Cooper, Scott is up for his position’s most prestigious award this week. The Colorado native will be in attendance at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show on Thursday, one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award given annually to the nation’s best punter. If he wins, he’d be the first freshman to do so in the award’s 15-year history, and only the second SEC player to take home the honor.
Whether he wins or not, Scott has already set himself up as the best punter in the SEC and perhaps the best in the country. While he doesn’t get a ton of work cleaning up after Alabama’s prolific offense — his 4.0 punts per game are fewest among the punters in the top-15 in average punt distance — he ranks third in the country with an averaged of 47 yards per punt.
More than half of Scott’s punts were downed inside the 20, a high rate of success for any punter, and he sent 18 of them 50-plus yards against only five touchbacks. There’s a reason he was voted one of the Crimson Tide’s special teams MVPs by his teammates and coaches.
Just like any star player, Scott is making his bones in big moments. He boomed a 66-yarder in the fourth quarter of Alabama’s 20-13 overtime win over LSU. He smashed a 64-yarder against Ole Miss that ended in an Alabama fumble recovery for a touchdown. In the Iron Bowl, his first punt went for a season-long 70 yards, the other resulted in Auburn taking over at its own 10-yard line.
In the SEC title game, Scott got off his most impressive punt to date, somehow picking up a low snap and getting a kick off amidst heavy pressure that was downed at the Missouri 20.
Alabama is even diversifying Scott’s role. With the struggles Alabama’s kickers have had, both in getting the ball through the uprights on field goal tries and keeping it in bounds on kickoffs. He had 17 kickoffs in Alabama’s last two games of the regular season, and although he didn’t have any in the SEC Championship he showed he’ll be ready to if called upon. Scott only recorded touchbacks on one-third of his regular season kickoffs, but with his obvious leg strength that would rise with more reps.
Unless they’re taking fake punts the distance, punters are often overlooked in terms of their importance. They’re overlooked, period — remember Texas A&M punter Drew Kaser going around campus asking fans about his faux Heisman campaign? The people he was interviewing didn’t even know who they were talking to.
Scott doesn’t look like a star quite yet. He’s a tall and skinny with a mop of blond hair, and very much looks like the freshman he is.
On Thursday, Scott will be sharing a stage with some of the biggest names in the sport, including his future first-round pick teammate Cooper. While he might never rake in the endorsement deals that some of his peers at the awards show will one day cash in on, he’s just as good at his craft as anyone in the country, regardless of position.