Alabama Has Men For ‘H' And ‘Y'

Lions and tigers are not the same thing, but they share some big cat characteristics. And so it is with the ‘Y' and ‘H' positions on a football team. Both are part of the tight end family, and important to the Crimson Tide.

Nick Saban had not been on the job at Alabama long before he shared his belief in signing a lot of men who played the tight end position. That was in part because his offense makes important use of the tight end and also because tight ends are ordinarily big, strong, and athletic, and able to play in various football positions.

The Alabama offense uses both the ‘Y,' the traditional tight end who lines up next to a tackle, and the ‘H,' who lines up in a slot, or even in something of a fullback position.

Michael Williams is back for his final season at ‘Y.' The 6-6, 269-pound senior, was not really one of those tight ends that Saban said he would recruit. At Pickens County High School in Reform, he was best known as a defensive end (and an outstanding basketball player). After redshirting in 2008, he played in 14 games (starting four games late in the year) in the 2009 national championship season. He took over as the starter for 11 games in 2010, and 13 in 2011, another national championship season.

Williams had 16 catches for 191 yards and two touchdowns in 2011, but it can't help but be remembered the one he didn't catch – the pass from Marquis Maze out of wildcat formation that was taken away from him by LSU's Eric Reid for an interception at the goalline. Williams got his revenge with two catches for 10 yards as Alabama was a 21-0 winner over LSU in the rematch for the national championship.

Williams is one of those almost certain bets to be a starter for the Crimson Tide in 2012. However, the Tide must build depth behind the upcoming senior. And Bama must also find a replacement for H-Back Brad Smelley, who has completed his Alabama career.

Alabama will have 15 days of practice, including three scrimmage days, in March and April. The third and final scrimmage will be the public A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Practice is scheduled to begin Friday, the day before the start of spring break. The second practice will be the day after spring break, Monday, March 19. The A-Day Game will begin at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday, April 14, and will be televised by CSS.

Smelley had one particularly notable talent as Alabama's H-Back. He never dropped a pass.

Smelley took over for Preston Dial as Bama's starter in 2011 and was the Tide's second-leading receiver with 34 catches for 356 yards and four touchdowns, including being wide open for a 35-yard touchdown reception in the 42-14 trouncing of Auburn in Auburn in the regular season finale. Smelley had a tremendous game against those Tigers with six catches for 86 yards, and followed it up with another huge game against the LSU Tigers in the BCS National Championship Game with a game-high seven receptions for 39 yards.

Both the tight end on the line and the H-back must be able to block and catch passes, and the Tide has a handful of men who have seen only a little action who will be involved at the two positions.

Senior Brandon Lewis (6-3, 288) made the move from defensive end to tight end just before the start of the 2011 season and was used primarily in short-yardage situations. He'll likely have a similar role in 2012.

It's a bit of a guess, but look for redshirt freshman Malcolm Faciane (6-5, 259) also to be in the mix at the traditional tight end position.

Two little-used sophomores – Harrison Jones and Brian Vogler -- seem to be top contenders at the vacant H-back position.

Jones (6-4, 248), the brother of Bama star offensive lineman Barrett Jones, saw back-up action in eight games last season. He had one catch for five yards against Vanderbilt.

Vogler (6-7, 252) played in nine games and also had one catch, a six-yard reception against Kent State.

This is one in a series looking as Alabama football positions prior to the start of spring football practice.

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