Why Alabama football is getting plenty from tight ends despite Miller Forristall's injury
Miller Forristall has been hobbled with ankle and shoulder injuries to the point of one reception for nine yards between his last two games for Alabama. Yet, the position hasn’t been this productive all season.
Jahleel Billingsley has brought the receiving yards while Kendall Randolph and Carl Tucker have brought the blocking. All four are likely to have noticeable roles for the remainder of the season, starting Saturday against LSU in Tiger Stadium.
“Those guys have done a really, really good job. They've all filled the role very nicely,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “Getting Carl back was good because he was hurt for a while and Miller got hurt and Carl came back. So that entire group of tight end sets kind of mixed and matched nicely all year long to help us be successful in the running game and the passing game.”
Randolph is plenty experienced in the blocking role, used there for the majority of last season in specialty packages. He was a sixth offensive lineman more than he was a tight end.
Tucker was a true receiving threat in 2018 at North Carolina, but his role at UA has been more of a blocking one, which he has executed well. Given Forristall’s development in blocking and Cameron Latu transitioning to the position from outside linebacker, a solid blocker like Tucker was needed.
Neither has drawn as much attention as Billingsley.
Billingsley made himself known to a lesser degree during Forristall’s absence last year, primarily on a 19-yard reception against Mississippi State. He’s done much more this year, catching three passes for 78 yards against Mississippi State and two more for 33 yards and a touchdown against Auburn.
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His touchdown reception against Auburn demonstrated the utility UA sees in Billingsley. The play was entirely designed to get him open, drawing the safety from the right side across the formation with a crossing route just to run Billingsley into that space, trusting him to get the correct leverage on his defender.
“Jahleel is extremely skilled,” UA wide receiver John Metchie III said. “Somebody, especially being so close to Jahleel, somebody I’m personally excited about for him to get on the scene and be able to showcase what he can do more because there’s a lot more that he can do that has not yet been seen.”
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Billingsley had more receptions in the last two games than he had in the previous 14 games of his career.
“Jahleel is kind of coming into his own a little bit as a tight end,” Saban said. “He's a very good receiver. I think having some success in the last couple games has probably helped his confidence a little bit. And he's definitely somebody who we feel can make plays for us on offense, and we need to try to utilize him every way that we can.”
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