Before sophomore tight end Miller Forristall first set foot on the University of Alabama’s campus, he bid farewell to family, friends and former teammates.

When he left Cartersville, Georgia, he also said goodbye to the end zone – which he managed to find 11 times during his senior season. But that separation may only be temporary.

“I think (blocking) that’s part of the position,” Forristall said. “You play tight end knowing you got to get your hands dirty.”

That’s especially true at Alabama. As a freshman, Forristall only hauled in five receptions for 73 yards while other tight ends not named O.J. Howard managed only three catches for 15 yards.

Forristall said he didn’t spend a lot of time perfecting his blocks before he arrived in Tuscaloosa, but he’s learned to embrace and even enjoy his time in the dirt.

“He’s not going to back down from anyone,” offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher said. “…He’s earned a lot of respect from the older guys as well, just seeing that he has that kind of dog-fight mentality.”

That intensity is exactly why former Alabama linebacker Tim Williams declared Forristall the best upcoming tight end while confetti rained down following the Crimson Tide’s 24-7 victory over Washington in the Peach Bowl.

“He’s always had that aggressiveness,” safety Ronnie Harrison said. “But now he’s working on his technique and his craft and his route-running, and he’s definitely getting it.”

Whether he’s ready to brush the dirt off or not, Forristall might find himself back in a cleaner, more familiar role in 2017. Alabama’s new offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, spent the last two seasons serving as the position coach for New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

That could suggest more touches for a group that’s already tasked with replacing the production of Howard (45 receptions for 595 yards).

“(Forristall) often teaches me things that I didn’t know about running routes,” junior tight end Hale Hentges said. “He’s a phenomenal route runner.”

On Monday, Alabama coach Nick Saban also praised Forristall’s knack for receiving and added that the sophomore reminded him of Howard.

“I’m not quite O.J., and I know that,” Forristall said “I don’t want to be. I just want to do my job, be Miller Forristall.”