Tide Uses Several At Tight End, H-Back

In a discussion of recruiting in his first year at Alabama, Coach Nick Saban said that tight ends were always a priority, in part because the tight end is important in the Crimson Tide offense and in part because tight ends are frequently big men with speed who can sometimes be used at other positions.

This year Alabama returns the starter at the traditional ‘Y' tight end position, Michael Williams. And Williams is more than just a returning starter; he's on the watch list for the Mackey Award as the nation's best college tight end.

Williams is a 6-6, 270-pound upcoming junior who is best known for his blocking, but who also has the ability to catch and run.

Alabama sometimes uses two tight ends on the line of scrimmage, sometimes uses a traditional tight end with another tight end at H-back (akin to fullback), and sometimes uses all three.

Michael Bowman, 6-4, 225, came to Alabama as a wide receiver and is still listed as such in official Crimson Tide rosters. But after spot duty as a true freshman in 2009, Bowman was redshirted last year, and there has been talk of him making the transition to tight end.

For the past two years, Preston Dial was in the line-up at H-back. Now Dial has finished his Bama career. In the spring, Brad Smelley, a 6-3, 229-pound senior, seemed to have the edge at the position. Though the H-Back is sometimes described as the pass-catching tight end (and receiving skills are important), the prime requisite of an H-Back is to be able to lead block for tailbacks and pick up the blitz in protection of the quarterback.

The tight ends learn the assignments of both ‘Y' and ‘H' but some – such as Williams -- will almost certainly always be on the line and others will almost always be in the backfield.

Two young players will work behind Williams and also in the two-tight end sets. Brian Vogler (6-7, 252) and Harrison Jones (6-4, 248) both were redshirted as true freshmen last fall. Jones is the brother of starting offensive line star Barrett Jones.

Chris Underwood (6-4, 243) is a fifth-year senior who has seen most of his playing time on special teams. He may move up the ladder at H-Back this fall.

Alabama signed a tight end in the 2011 class. Malcolm Faciane (6-5, 259 from Picayune, Miss.) is listed as being able to play either the ‘Y' or the ‘H' position. He missed most of his senior season after suffering a knee injury.

There has been speculation that big Bama tailback Jalston Fowler (6-1, 236, sophomore) might be a candidate for H-Back if he improved his blocking, but the losses at tailback – Dee Hart injured and Demetrius Goode and Corey Grant transferring – make it likely that Fowler stays at tailback.

The Tide has two senior walk-on tight ends, Nate Carlson (6-4, 230) of Birmingham and John Baites (6-1, 235) of Henderson, Tenn.

This is one in a series looking at Alabama positions for the 2011 season.

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