|TideSports College Football Preview|
Position coach: Joe Pannunzio (first season)
Returning starter: Hale Hentges
Starter lost: O.J. Howard
Hale Hentges is the veteran of the group, a junior who played in all 15 games in 2016. Mainly a blocker, he caught three passes for 10 yards. Expect more production from sophomore Miller Forristall, who also played in all 15 games and caught five passes for 73 yards. Forristall should move into the No. 1 tight end position given his size full set of skills. Another young tight end to watch this season is Irv Smith, an athletic sophomore from New Orleans. Smith’s skills could have him playing tight end and H-back this season.
A pair of freshmen joined the group this year in Major Tennison and Kedrick James, both from Texas. Tennison is a 6-foot-5, 245-pounder from Flint, Texas. ESPN ranked him the No. 8 tight end in the 2017 class. James, 6-5, 272 pounds, actually got a look on the defensive line as fall camp opened, but he moved back to the sideline in the first week. James was ranked the No. 9 tight end in the country according to ESPN. Ronnie Clark, a 6-2, 224 pounds, is a redshirt junior, who can play H-back.
Newcomer to watch
Irv Smith, a sophomore, is an athletic target, who could make an impact at the H-back position. Smith moves more like a running back or wide receiver than he does a tight end. He added to a good tight end unit.
You need to know
Miller Forristall has added weight and strength in his one year in the program. The talented sophomore has gained 20-30 pounds since joining the program in 2016.
It’s a different feel for the group this season. That’s mainly due to the departure of O.J. Howard to the NFL. It’s also due to new coach Joe Pannunzio, who takes over for Mario Cristobal. It’s a young group with Forristall and Irv Smith expected to add athletic depth to the unit. Smith’s skill could be a good match to what new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Hentges is the veteran of the group and he’ll continue contributing as a blocker.
Alabama must replace O.J. Howard, who was third on the team in receptions (45) and yardage (595).
“I saw (Nick Saban say I was O.J. Howard-like). One of my guys on the team commented on it on Twitter. It was pretty funny. I’m not quite O.J., and I know that. I don’t want to be. I just want to do my job, be Miller Forristall.”