Nation's No. 1 rated kicker Will Reichard confident he can fix Alabama's problem
Growing up less than an hour east of Tuscaloosa, Will Reichard has heard the moans and groans from a frustrated Alabama fan base exasperated by the Crimson Tide’s erratic kicking situation.
Which is why the three-star specialist from Hoover High knows exactly what he’s getting into, and he’s not the least bit anxious.
In fact, the nation’s No. 1 rated kicker and longtime Alabama commit remains as confident as ever he’ll be making the right decision when he signs a binding national letter of intent with the Crimson Tide on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period.
“I’m really excited to do it, because, I mean, a lot of the Bama fans haven’t been happy with the way their kickers have been performing,” Reichard said Monday night after the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game at Cramton Bowl. “So, if I go in and just do what I normally do, they’ll be really pleased.
“I mean, it’s better than going into some place that’s had really good kickers, because you have to feel like you’ve got to live up to (that standard). But for me, there’s no pressure because (the fans) feel like they haven’t had a good one. So, I’ll just go in and do my thing.”
Reichard’s chutzpah didn’t have much of an affect on the Cramton Bowl scoreboard during Monday night’s 24-20 loss to a defensive-laden Mississippi roster, when the Alabama specialist connected on a pair of extra points but missed his lone field goal try from 41 yards out to end the game’s first offensive series with 9:48 left in the first quarter.
But even as things wound down with the Magnolia State neighbors leading by double-digits over the final minutes Monday, Reichard confidently warmed up with the kicking tee and net, ever prepared to make a kick if called upon.
It’s with that same self-assurance that Reichard is eager to sign with Alabama on Wednesday and enroll early, with the tentative plan to move to Tuscaloosa on Jan. 7 and possibly room with current Crimson Tide freshman long snapper Thomas Fletcher.
“I’m really, really excited, obviously, I’ve been looking forward to this my whole life, especially being able to graduate early, be there early, build relationships with all the guys,” Reichard said. “Especially this week, me and my head coach have been dreaming about this for a long time and for us to do this and then we have the UnderArmour game in a couple of weeks, it’s just awesome.”
Hoover head coach Josh Nibblett, who was the Alabama head coach in Monday night’s all-star game, will also be a coach in this month’s UnderArmour All-American game in Orlando, Florida. He echoed the same sort of confidence in Reichard’s ability to step in and make an immediate impact with the Crimson Tide.
“There’s no doubt he’ll be very good, I mean, there’s no doubt,” Nibblett said. “The moment’s never too big for him. He’s practices and puts himself in those situations, he works at it. A lot of guys that kick may not know how to make an adjustment, but he knows how to make adjustments. He understands his body, he understands how much he needs to be kicking, how and when to lay off and rest, but he’s very effective at that he’s done because he’s been doing it for so long and works so hard at it.”
If/when Reichard signs with the Tide on Wednesday, he’ll follow a long list of pupils of the Chris Sailer kicking program to come to Tuscaloosa, along with the man he’ll be trying to beat out to be Alabama’s starting kicker — rising sophomore Joseph Bulovas, who is 12-of-16 (75 percent) on field goals this season and 68-of-73 on extra points. Other Sailer alumni to play for the Crimson Tide include several highly-touted specialists in punters Skyler DeLong and JK Scott, and kickers Adam Griffith and Cade Foster, to name a few.
Still, outside of Scott’s consistent leg, Alabama’s kicking situation has been notoriously unreliable, even this season as dueling kickers Bulovas and senior graduate transfer Austin Jones have combined to miss an SEC-worst eight extra points this season. That follows a trend of inconsistency at the position that plagued the Tide’s previous three starting kickers in Forster, Griffith and Montgomery's own Andy Pappanastos last season.
But Sailer has been especially effusive in his praise of Reichard, a longtime student of his nationally renowned kicking program.
"If he was in the Class of 2017, 2018, 2019 or 2020, he would still be the No. 1 kicker in the country," Sailer told SEC Country prior to Reichard’s commitment earlier this year, according to AL.com. "He's that good. If I brought him to any campus of where my current college starters are, they would be fearful of their job if Will came to compete. I will go a step further. I even believe you could put him in an NFL camp right now. He's that good. He's ready for the next level. That's how special Will is. Everyone fears Will, no matter what age he is."
Nibblett shared similar sentiments Monday evening.
“It’s ridiculous how much confidence you have in him — almost too much confidence sometimes,” Nibblett said of Reichard. “But you just know that field position is not going to be an issue because he can flip it, and you know you’ll come away with points (even) if you get stalled out early in a game or late in a game when you need to go up two scores and it’s got to be a field goal, then you feel really confident in what he’s done.”
What Reichard has done is produce, finishing his Hoover career connecting on 27-of-31 field goals and 109-of-109 extra points, according to AL.com. Reichard has also been elite on kickoffs, with 186 of his 188 kickoffs landing in the end zone or beyond for touchbacks.
“He’s an unbelievable kid, the (other) kids respect him, he’s highly involved in the weight room, he’s highly involved in everything that we do,” Nibblett said. “That’s the way he’s always been, that’s the way he’ll always be, and that’s why he’ll be an unbelievable kicker. That’s why he’ll always have an opportunity to kick probably at the next level after college, because he’ll work hard at it, he’ll be good at it, and the moment’s never too big for him.”
But while the praise is nice, Reichard knows it also comes with expectations, all of which he’s confident he can meet at Alabama.
“That means a lot, but I’ve got to live up to it,” Reichard said. “Keep working hard, do my thing.”