Nick Saban, Alabama developing freshman WR Henry Ruggs III on special teams

Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.– During last week’s open practice at Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama football head coach Nick Saban had several players fielding punts on special teams, including Minkah Fitzpatrick, Calvin Ridley, Trevon Diggs, Robert Foster, Shyheim Carter, Jerry Jeudy and Xavian Marks. 

Henry Ruggs III was also in the mix, and after seeing what he did in his high school career – 102 touches, 20 touchdowns – the talented five-star could be an explosive player in space. Following the Crimson Tide’s seventh practice on Thursday, Saban singled-out the Montgomery (Ala.) native as one of the guys vying for a punt return role. 

“I guess you don’t really, truly trust anybody until you see them do it in a game, but he’s done a nice job in practice,” Saban said. “He’s got really good ball judgment, he’s every explosive and he’s instinctive as a runner.” 

Before taking in the practice, yours truly caught up with senior target Cam Sims.

Sims named Ruggs as one of multiple freshmen that has impressed him. ArDarius Stewart and Gehrig Dieter handled kick return duties last season, but with both now in the National Football League: a fresh face could be worked there. 

“I think kickoff return is an area where we also have to get somebody that can it and we’re working Henry at that as well,” Saban said.  

Former Alabama players Cyrus Jones and Eddie Jackson both generated success returning punts, as the duo combined for six touchdowns as seniors. Trevon Diggs and Xavian Marks have experience, but the speed, vision and playmaking abilities of Ruggs could beat both guys.

Stephen M. Smith is a managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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