TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It's wasn't that long ago that Cade Foster was the butt of jokes, widely viewed as the reason the University of Alabama didn't go undefeated in 2011. His three missed field goals against LSU on Nov. 5 nearly cost the Crimson Tide a shot at the national championship.
Clearly, Foster's errors in the kicking game weren't the death knell to Alabama's season. A 14th national title made its way to Tuscaloosa nonetheless.
Still, the junior kicker felt he had work to do after the season had ended. He had trust to rebuild and an attitude to redevelop.
He spent the offseason working with strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran and entered spring practice stronger than ever. His work ethic, he said, needed a kickstart.
"A lot of guys like to get extra time on their own," Foster said. "I feel like it's what separates the great guys from being average."
Foster came back with an extra pop on his kicks, which caught the attention of the coaching staff. After the rocky sophomore campaign, he needed to show Alabama coach Nick Saban something.
"I just had to show him since spring football," Foster said. "He's not going to put us in a situation we're not prepared for. Since I've been doing it in practice, I feel like it's something that he sees."
Foster didn't waste any time showing improvement. The native of Southlake, Texas, nailed a 51-yard field goal in the opener against Michigan, celebrating wildly as the kick sailed through the uprights. In front of the home crowd after a year where he didn't make a single kick of more than 50 yards, he had every right to get excited.
"It felt great, especially being in Cowboys Stadium," Foster said. "I'm from right down the road and it was really cool. I was a little bit too fired up in my celebration. I forgot to give my guys high fives, I was jumping around out there."
Through three games, Foster is 2-for-4 on field goals, with all of the attempts beyond 50 yards.
But the improvement in his game hasn't been limited to scoring attempts. Foster has gotten better by leaps and bounds on kickoffs. He registered five touchbacks all of last season, but against Arkansas alone, he put eight of nine kickoffs into the end zone for no return.
To be fair, he had a rule change to thank for it. The NCAA moved kickoff attempts up five yards this season, hoping to cut down on injuries in the return game.
"I was pretty excited," Foster said when he heard the new rule. "At the same time I was like, man I'm not going to get as many tackles this year. I was pretty excited when I heard it. I knew that regardless of the rule change I had to improve. If it wouldn't have been a rule change, I still would be doing pretty well.
"Some of it's mental. There's definitely that mental aspect, seeing yourself closer to the uprights and stuff. You still have guys that were kicking it to the 5 last year kicking it to the goal line this year. I feel like it's a testament to the work ethic we have here and how the coaches drive us to improve everyday."
Pelini has his hands full, without Carter
It's fair to say Florida Atlantic coach Carl Pelini isn't thrilled about this weekend's matchup with No. 1 Alabama. Just a few days ago, his team struggled against another top 25 team in Georgia.
"It's not optimal, but what are you going to do?" Pelini said. "You've just got to play the games they set in front of you and prepare as best you can."
Pelini had strong words to describe the Tide on both sides of the football.
"They're just very disciplined, very strong," Pelini said. "They're very violent in their tackling. Their backs and their receivers are big and strong. That's usually a good formula.
"They're as finely coached a team as I've seen in college football. They don't make a lot of mistakes, and you can't either if you want to have any chance."
FAU won't go into Saturday's game at Bryant-Denny Stadium with former Alabama receiver Duron Carter. Pelini learned that Carter's petition for an NCAA waiver allowing him to play this season will not be accepted, according to a report from FAUOwlAccess.com.
McCarron's hand is OK
AJ McCarron's hand is fine after having it stepped against Arkansas on Saturday. The junior quarterback played after the injury but was taken out when the win was all but assured.
"The only reason he pulled me was to get the other guys some reps," he said. "They still had their ones in. We came out throwing in the second half, so I was fine."