He went from one of the nation's top punt returners in 2022 to struggling to field balls and misjudging punts that roll inside his own 5-yard line this season.

What's up with Alabama junior Kool-Aid McKinstry?

“It’s a lot of different things,” McKinstry said this week. “Faced a lot of challenging kicks this year, whether it has been rugby or a guy holding the ball longer than usual. The ball has been just different.

“Punt returning, you’ve got to make sure at the end of the play we at least have the ball. Make sure we don’t have any unnecessary turnovers. I would say I’ve been working harder on just making sure I’m catching all the difficult balls, balls that are even harder to catch or can be risky catches. Making sure I am doing that to make sure we save as much field position as possible.”

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McKinstry has played well at corner this year, and may be the closest thing Alabama has had to former FSU star Deion Sanders, now coach at Colorado.

“I feel like every game I would be challenged, so I prepare for that moment,” McKinstry said. “I feel like you never know when the ball is coming your way, so I have to always be ready. I don’t look at it like they’re going to go away from me or do this and do that through the third.

 “I feel like the ball always has a chance to come my way. Never know when one is going to come my way, so I always try to make sure I’m on top and prepare for the moment.”
That's a feeling McKinstry will likely need Saturday when Malik Nabers leads a talented LSU Tigers receiving corps into Tuscaloosa.
“I feel like they’re a really good group,” McKinstry said. “I feel they work well together. They move around a lot. They run good routes. They’re very fast, kind of long guys, know how to get open. Feel like it’s going to be a good challenge.”

The Tigers also figure to go at Bama's "other" corner, Terrion Arnold. That's fine with Kool-Aid.
“I feel like me and Terrion work well together,” McKinstry said. “I feel like also Trey Amos has come in and done his share in helping us also. I feel like with us three being on the field, whoever is at corner at the moment, I feel like we are always good on the outside and I feel like we do a good job of challenging the receivers to get open and do what they have to do for their quarterback.”
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