Tide Tight End Uses Spring To Improve
"You've got so many good players on defense, but if I had to pick one who is toughest to block I would say Courtney Upshaw," said Michael Williams following Alabama's fifth practice of spring practice Monday.
Williams said Upshaw has "pure strength. He's got good technique. When you put good technique with strength, it's unstoppable almost. But you're going to face people like that during the season, so every play you've got to take advantage of the opportunity."
Last year Upshaw was hobbled much of the season with an ankle injury.
"The ankle is not even a factor anymore," Williams said. "He's more flexible. His hips coming around the edge are amazing. You're trying to pass block on him, and he flips his hips and that's all she wrote out there.
"I try to set on him quick and get to him quick, but he's a great player. You've got to do what you can."
Williams is a 6-6, 269-pound junior from Reform who has played in all 27 games in his career, starting 14 of them. He started 11 times last year in Bama's 10-3 season and had eight receptions for 100 yards. He had three catches for 29 yards as a freshman in the 2009 national championship season when he played behind Colin Peek.
Alabama uses a lot of tight ends, frequently two and sometimes as many as three at a time (two on the line of scrimmage and one at H-back).
Williams said his role is "more of a third down tight end. If you looked at my skill set, you would probably say I'm predominantly a blocker. I feel I can block at the point of attack and get some movement on the line of scrimmage."
Williams knows that he needs to be a receiver as well as blocker. He said his goal is to get out of the blocker stereotype.
"That's why we do these drills in the spring and catch the Juggs (ball passing machine) all summer, that's why you do all this," he said. "To expand your role, to not just be a predominant blocker at tight end. If it's just that, they (the defense) can have just running personnel in the game and they don't have to defend the pass. You want to be that double threat."
Williams said there is good competition at tight end, meaning that it's important not to make mistakes. A blown route, a dropped pass could mean a drop on the depth chart.
Spring practice for the offense has been "focusing on getting the tempo up, moving around faster, and I think we're doing a good job at it," Williams said.
On Saturday, Alabama will have its first scrimmage of the spring. Although Williams said it's a practice, "You can tell who can really adjust to a game type situation. You see who will really step up and play."
That's one of three scrimmage situations of the spring, including the public A-Day Game that concludes spring practice on April 16.
One difference for the offense this spring is that A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims are battling for the quarterback job held the past two years by Greg McElroy.
Williams is adjusting to the new quarterbacks.
"Both are great leaders," Williams said. "They are rallying people to the huddle, rallying people to the line of scrimmage, trying to push the tempo. Leadership is the first thing on their mind.
"You've got to get that chemistry going, with extra reps after practice. Just trying to get to know them and get that chemistry. You recognize the strength of their arms. Both of them have pretty strong arms. You realize you've got to come out of your break quickly with both of them."
So how would Williams compare their arms to that of Marquis Maze?
Huh? Well, Maze threw a pass last year from the wildcat formation, finding Williams alone in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown in Bama's 31-6 win over Florida.
"I wouldn't say that [the quarterbacks have stronger arms than Maze] yet, because Marquis gave me my first touchdown," Williams said. "But I'll say they're just as good."
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