Smelley ‘Full Go' In Tide Preparation

It has been a busy time for Alabama H-back Brad Smelley. There were final examinations and winter commencement exercises. Then he had to work in some Christmas shopping. And this week he's been back in the swing of Crimson Tide football practice.



Brad Smelley is listed as a tight end for Alabama, but he's primarily an off-the-line H-back. For much of his career he was primarily a blocker in the running game and in pass protection. But as the Crimson Tide prepares for the BCS National Championship Game against LSU, Smelley has a little more bounce in his step and the Fighting Tigers have a little more something to prepare for.

That's because Smelley came on strong as a favorite receiver of Bama quarterback A.J. McCarron. In Bama's final regular season game, a 42-14 trouncing of Auburn, McCarron led all receivers in the game with six receptions for 86 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown pass from quarterback A.J. McCarron when the Auburn defense elected to not cover him.

"I was happy to play well in that game," Smelley said. "It was a good game and I'll remember it for a long time."

Of course, for the moment he has his attention on other things, notably the national championship game against LSU in New Orleans on Jan. 9.

He hasn't even had time to think much about his future after that game. He earned his degree in marketing and "did a little specialization – entrepreneurship." As for a job, he said, "I don't really have a lead right now. I just want to finish out this season strong. I'm not really thinking about the future as in where I'm going to work, what I'm going to do. Hopefully that will come when the time is right."

The 6-3, 229-pound Tuscaloosa native said that he became more involved in the passing game as the season went on. "We kept executing our stuff, and at the end of the season we found some holes in the defense," Smelley said. "A.J. was hitting me and we made some plays."

He said that he and McCarron "are real comfortable together. He knows where I'm going to break out or sit the route. It just comes from reps after reps after reps. We feel real good about it."

So good that Smelley said he may expand his Christmas shopping list to include something for his quarterback.

Smelley finished the year as Bama's third leading receiver. Marquis Maze had 56 receptions for 627 yards. Smelley and Trent Richardson both had a second best 27 receptions with Richardson having 327 yards, Smelley 317 yards.

Alabama is on the practice field now with this week devoted to fundamentals. Even though the game plan won't be part of the routine until after Christmas break, Smelley acknowledges that Tide players are familiar with LSU personnel.

Maybe not quite as familiar with LSU as with his own team, he said, but "We're pretty familiar with them as they are with us. We play against them every year. This year we play them twice. We prepared for them for two weeks and we'll have more time to prepare for them. We know what they like to do, and they know what we like to do. I'd say we have more familiarity with this team than any other team on the schedule."

Smelley said that preparation is always the same regardless of the opponent. "We do the same thing, week-in and week-out, no matter who we play. It's the absolute same thing."

LSU is 13-0 and ranked number one in the nation. The Tigers handed Alabama a 9-6 overtime loss in regular season play, the only blemish on the number two Tide's record (11-1).

Smelley said LSU's success this year makes "the challenge is a little higher. I think we're ready to step up to that challenge. I'm ready for a dog fight. I think it's going to be a great game."

He said that LSU's defense is very good in part because of their speed and partly because "they're usually in the right place. There aren't a lot of missed assignments. If you play fast, play hard, tackle well, and don't miss assignments, you're going to have a great defense."

Smelley sees a similar defense every day.

"We really have the same style of play," he said. "We're not weak at any of the levels – defensive line, linebackers, safeties, cornerbacks – everybody. We have good players at every position. I don't think there's much difference."

Even though Smelley had plenty to do in the three weeks following the Auburn game, he said it was a good time for the team. "We had some guys banged up, but everybody's a full strength now. We're playing good and playing fast.

"We're working on fundamentals and getting better every day. It has that feel of fall camp. We're doing a lot of good on good stuff, not really working much scout team things. They've been some fast practices. We're really getting after it."

Contact?

"Oh, yeah," he said. "Absolutely. It's full go."

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