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How Alabama CB Kool-Aid McKinstry lies behind success on offense

Alabama CB Kool-Aid McKinstry (#1) runs back a punt versus ULM
Photo comes via SEC Media Portal

Alabama’s offense is averaging 48.3 points through four games, but it has yet to get in sync.

Bryce Young led a game-winning drive against Texas and the wide receivers got on the same page versus Vanderbilt, but a defensive player has been an unsung hero in jump-starting the Crimson Tide’s offense. Kool-Aid McKinstry, a sophomore cornerback, was an electric receiver and return specialist at Pinson (Ala.) Valley High School. As a native of Birmingham, Ala., McKinstry won three Class 6A state championships before coming to the Tide. He has a knack for creating marquee plays with vision, speed, and athleticism on punt returns. The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder gives Young and the offense a short field to operate whenever he’s executing returns. McKinstry leads college football in punt return yards (244) and is ninth in yards per return (17.4). He recorded 136 punt return yards in Alabama’s 63-7 victory over Louisiana-Monroe, the third-most in Alabama history.

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McKinstry is giving vibes of Javier Arenas, Cyrus Jones, Christion Jones, Kenyan Drake, Jaylen Waddle, and Eddie Jackson to Alabama fans when he returns punts. He’s bound to return one for a touchdown at any moment. Coach Nick Saban saw McKinstry could perform the job well in preseason camp. He has trust and confidence in the sophomore as a playmaker.

McKinstry puts Young, Bill O’Brien, and the offense in a spot to excel.

On Tuesday, Young spoke about McKinstry to reporters.

“When he is returning punts, I am up and locked in because we are ready to leave on the sideline,” Young said about the excitement of McKinstry returning punts. “He is super electric and makes a lot of plays. He’s changed the field position for us multiple times. It is so important from when you think you’re getting the ball at the 20 or 25-yard line and now you are getting it at the opposing 40 or 45-yard line, that changes everything for us as an offense. It gives us a better chance of scoring.”

McKinstry’s efforts not only put Alabama in great field position, but it helps Young and O’Brien to have the right plays to attack with a short field.

“It gives us momentum,” Young said about McKinstry’s explosive punt returns. “It gives us that juice as an offense when you see something like that. The whole momentum changes. We are always in attack mode, but it raises it even more. We are just that much closer than what we thought we were going to be to the end zone. He’s given us that confidence boost to spark us.”

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DeVonta Smith gave Alabama’s offense a spark on special teams in 2020 versus Arkansas.

The Crimson Tide was on the road for that matchup, and the score was tied at three for much of the first quarter. Smith returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown, giving Alabama a 10-3 advantage. The moment helped Smith become the first wide receiver in Alabama history to win the Heisman Trophy, and it propelled the Tide to a 52-3 victory. We will see how McKinstry’s exploits on special teams continue to inspire Alabama.

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

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