What In The ‘H' Happens In Spring?
Brad Smelley was the H-back – a hybrid tight end-fullback position – on the 2011 national championship Alabama Crimson Tide. Smelley caught 34 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns. Last season Bama again won the national title, but in 2012 former walk-on snapper Kelly Johnson was the H-back, and Johnson had only five receptions for only 39 yards and no touchdowns.
Johnson has completed his eligibility and the Crimson Tide will be working in new men at the position this spring.
Prior to last season there was a suspicion that Jalston Fowler, a back-up tailback, might become an H-back, and that proved true in early games. Tide tailbacks said that enjoyed running behind the blocks of "The Beast," the 6-1, 242-pound Fowler. Fowler, however, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Tide's second game of the season.
The H-back has ordinarily been used only as a blocker and occasional receiver, but Fowler – who had 56 rushes for 385 yards (6.9 yards per carry) and four touchdowns as a freshman – could expand the role to include running.
Alabama dressed a number of players, including injured players, for the Southeastern Conference and BCS National Championship games, but Fowler was not among those in football gear. He was in a small group of injured players who wore warm-up suits for those games, so it is not known if he will be involved in contact work when spring practice begins in late March. Regardless, he should be ready to go in the fall.
Fowler, of course, is not the only option.
The position calls for many of the same attributes as a tight end – enough size to be an effective blocker and receiving skills.
It is interesting that the last two H-backs at Bama came from positions other than tight end and/or fullback. Smelley came to Bama after a career as a prep quarterback and Johnson was a deep snapper and special teams coverage man.
A leading candidate for the job this spring could be a travelin' man. Brent Calloway, a 6-1, 217-pound upcoming sophomore, came to Alabama as a tailback, worked for a while at linebacker, and now is listed as a running back and H-back. Although he has earned most of his playing time as a coverage man on special teams, Calloway had 10 carries for 63 yards last season.
Many think of the brother of a former prominent Crimson Tide player. Barrett Jones has completed his All-America career at Alabama, but his brother, Harrison Jones, is a tight end candidate who seems best suited to H-back. Harrison is a 6-4, 244-pound upcoming junior who has spent most of his first two seasons on special teams.
Quarterback McCarron may have another favorite. His brother, Corey McCarron, who transferred from South Alabama last year, will be eligible in 2013 and could be at H or tight end. He's 6-2, 244, and has three years of eligibility remaining.
There's also a newcomer who may be in the mix. Alabama has a very solid commitment from the nation's number one tight end. How solid? O.J. Howard, 6-5, 225, from Autauga Academy in Prattville, has entered The University for the spring semester. He is taking part in the off-season program and will be in spring drills.
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