Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley has directed 12 different offenses since 2005. The 2018 Crimson Tide might have the most depth at tight end he’s ever had.
Irv Smith Jr., Hale Hentges, and Miller Forrsitall combined for 24 receptions, 245 yards and six touchdowns last season. That was after Forristall went down three games into the season with a season-ending knee injury. He finished with just one catch.
“(Forristall) is in there every day rehabbing, strengthening his leg, and he’s done a really good job in the spring,” Hentges said. “So we’re excited to watch him continue to get better, and overall just get back to where he was because, as you guys know, he’s a very good player and will definitely help us out.”
Couple the redshirt sophomore’s return with the punch of Smith and Hentges and you have an position group that should surpass Locksley’s usual production in the passing game from tight ends. The six touchdowns scored by that position last season is already the most by any of his previous offenses.
“We have a lot of guys who have experience and a lot of guys who are very good players and a lot of young guys who we expect to contribute,” Hentges said. “So, we’re obviously extremely excited with who we have and it makes it easy for me, especially being the oldest guy.”
Since 2005, tight end groups under Locksley’s control have averaged 19.2 receptions, 237 yds and 2.8 touchdowns per season. With Locksley and Brian Daboll as co-offensive coordinators last year, the Crimson Tide exceeded all of those numbers.
“We want to help out our team in every aspect that we can,” Hentges said. “So for us, that’s playing a bigger role on special teams and ultimately getting involved more in the pass-catching game. I think with coach Locksley we are really seeing more opportunities to do that; more opportunities where we are playing two-tight end sets, and overall more balls targeted at us.”
Smith made his mark last season by catching 14 passes for 128 yards and three touchdowns. Given his offensive coordinator’s history with tight ends, the junior could be in for an increase in receptions and yards in 2018.
Two of Locksley’s most productive tight ends at his previous stops, New Mexico’s Lucas Reed and Illinois’ Michael Hoomanawanui, posted similar statistics to Smith before breaking out the following year. Reed went on to catch 33 passes for 459 yards his sophomore season, and Hoomanawanui surpassed 300 yards on the way to the NFL. The New Orleans Saints tight end is now in his eighth professional season.
“(Catching more passes) is something we are really excited about,” Hentges said. “It’s something that we are really going to have to show that we are reliant in that area.”
Sophomore tight ends Major Tennison and Kedrick James will also be back for the Crimson Tide. Both Tennison and James appeared in just five games last season.
Here is a look at how tight ends have been utilized in the passing game under Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, who was promoted to that roll in the offseason. Statistics are full seasons only. Locksley served as offensive coordinator at Illinois and Maryland was head coach at New Mexico in 2009 and ’10 before being fired four games into the 2011 season.
2005 – 17 catches, 176 yards, 2 touchdowns
2006 – 16 catches, 232 yards, 1 touchdown
2007 – 17 catches, 307 yards, 5 touchdowns
2008 – 27 catches, 337 yards, 2 touchdowns
2009 – 17 catches, 212 yards, 1 touchdowns
2010 – 34 catches, 468 yards, 5 touchdowns
2012 – 20 catches, 251 yards, 3 touchdowns
2013 – 15 catches, 204 yards, 3 touchdowns
2014 – 6 catches, 41 yards, 1 touchdown
2015 – 18 catches, 134 yards, 2 touchdowns
Alabama (co-offensive coordinator)
2017 – 24 catches, 245 yards, 6 touchdowns
19.2 Receptions, 237 yards, 2.8 touchdowns