What Nick Saban said about Jahleel Billingsley ahead of New Mexico State game

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama football tight end Jahleel Billingsley has not been as much of an offensive contributor for the past month.

He had only one catch over the past four games. 

On Wednesday ahead of the game against New Mexico State, Nick Saban was asked if Alabama misses Billingsley's contributions. 

"When a guy has opportunities, he's got to take advantage of them," Saban said. "He's got to play fast. He can't drop the ball. So, do we miss his production? Yeah. But when he gets the opportunities, he's got to take advantage of it, and he's got to play fast. He's certainly a guy that can help us. In some kind of way, we need him to sort of go out there and play like he is capable of playing. That's certainly our responsibility as coaches to try to get him to do that." 

One of those drops, had it been caught, could have helped Alabama significantly late in the game against Texas A&M with the game tied at 38-38. 

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Billingsley has caught 11 passes this season for 186 yards and 2 touchdowns. 

He didn't catch his first pass this season until Florida, the third game of the year. 

Billingsley drew Saban's ire in the preseason and had to work his way back up the depth chart. When asked if Billingsley had worked his way back up the depth chart in late August, Saban said that's up to Billingsley. 

"He knows what he is supposed to do in practice," Saban said in August. "He knows what he is supposed to do. This is not a democracy. Everybody doesn't get to do what they want to do. Everybody doesn't get to do what they feel like doing. You've got to buy in and do what you're supposed to do to be a part of the team and do the things you need to do in practice every day."

Billingsley didn't get the start in the first game of the season against Miami, but TV cameras showed him and Saban having a conversation on the sideline. 

Saban, when later asked about that conversation, said Alabama is always trying to encourage players to do the right thing and create value for themselves. 

"Jahleel and I have talked on several occasions because he’s certainly a guy that we want to have success for his own benefit individually as well as for the team," Saban said in September. "Sometimes when you get a little external encouragement it can be a positive thing for you. I think for the first game he did OK when he went out there and played." 

Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) faces New Mexico State at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.