Any tight end would have loved to be a part of Alabama’s offense in 2018.
Irv Smith Jr. and Hale Hentges each played a major role. Smith had 710 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, both the best mark in school history for a tight end. Hentges had just four catches, but three were for touchdowns. He was a critical blocker and a team captain.
“No one could have been happier for those guys than me,” said tight end Miller Forristall. “Kind of growing up here and being with Irv (Smith) and Hale (Hentges), maturing here, and seeing the success they had, that’s fantastic; and then both getting drafted in a couple of weeks and see where they go. I couldn’t be pumped or more excited for two guys who just worked their butts off.”
Forristall was the third tight end for much of the year. He finished the season without any offensive stats, but is now the most experienced tight end on the roster. As recently as 2017, he was competing with Smith atop the depth chart before a knee injury cut his sophomore season short.
He watched what Smith and Hentges did during the fall. He envisioned a future where he might have similar opportunities.
“It works the same way with us (current players) and recruits,” Forristall said. “Recruits, say, ‘Man, I see this guy catching the ball. I want to go there.’ Or we see it and say, ‘Hey, that could be me. I get to catch a couple of balls.’ So it’s super exciting.”
That doesn’t mean Forristall wants to be the next edition of Smith or Hentges. Nor is he O.J. Howard or Brandon Greene. He played with all four of them. He saw the work they put in during practice and how that showed up in their production.
“I’m not going to be Irv Smith or Hale Hentges,” Forristall said. “I play a very different game than both of them, and I intend to do so. Nothing against those guys. They are both fantastic and you see where it got them. But I’m not going to try to model my game after Irv or model my game after Hale. Now, I may try to take specific things they do. Hale was fantastic in line. Great blocker. I want to take that from Hale’s game. Irv was great how he pulled, how aggressive he pulled, his routes he ran, his attention to detail. I’m going to steal that from Irv.”
The opportunity is there for Forristall or another tight end to take a much larger role in the offense than he had last fall. There’s no saying whether that player can have the impact that Smith or Hentges had. Forristall would like to have his own season that the player after him can be envious of as well.
“It’s going to hurt any team any time you lose two guys like Hale Hentges, a captain, or Irv Smith. Two great players, two great tight ends, great for the tight end room and the team. Now it’s time for new guys to kind step up and be the guy. I’m one of those guys, I need to step up and take a different role on the team than I’ve had in the past.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.