Stuart McNair

Alabama uses the fullback as runner and receiver, but primarily as blocker

Alabama fullbacks are known for blocking, but Jalston Fowler added extra dimension

The Alabama offense includes more than 11 positions, though, of course, not all at one time (except on the occasional mixup).  So-called regular formation ,includes five offensive linemen, a tight end, a quarterback, tailback, flanker, split end, and fullback (designated H-back). Regular, however, is only occasional. There are sometimes two tight ends, sometimes three or even four wide receivers, sometimes two tailbacks with one in the slot.


The H-back in the Alabama offense under Saban is sometimes a traditional fullback, sometimes a tight end.


In our series in looking at the top players at each position in the nine-year Nick Saban Era at Alabama, we have examined all offensive positions except H-back, and for the purposes of this exercise we are discussing only the fullback types.


The fullback gets the occasional rushing opportunity, and has been a special situations pass receiver, but his job is primarily that of blocker. The 2015 fullback, Michael Nysewander, was called “Highway 46” by Heisman Trophy winning tailback Derrick Henry for Nysewander’s ability to clear the way for Henry with his blocking.


Over the years in goalline situations the Tide has inserted men like nose tackle Terrance Cody and defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson into the fullback spot.


Rushing and pass receiving records for the fullbacks are not particularly significant.


Baron Huber was a sophomore when Saban arrived in 2007, and he held the starting fullback job that first year, though as others in the H-back position he alternated either with other fullbacks or with tight ends, notably Preston Dial. Huber had one pass reception in 2006 before the arrival of Saban, and added two more over thenext three years. The three catches went for four yards each.


Brad Smelley took over in 2010, though he alternated with Jalston Fowler, who was both tailback and fullback that season. Smelley caught 7 passes for 50 yards in 2009 and 6 for 55 in 2010 and was Bama’s second-leading receiver on the national championship team in 2011 with 34 catches for a team-best 4 touchdowns. He was the first Saban H-back from Alabama to be taken in the NFL draft, going in the seventh round to Cleveland.


Fowler had only rushing statistics in his first season in 2010, 14 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown, and added 56 carries and 385 yards and 4 TDs in 2011. He was injured and redshirted after playing in only two games in 2012, rushing 20 times for 88 yards, but becoming a goalline receiving threat as he had 7 receptions for only 15 yards, but 5 touchdowns in 2013. His final season Fowler had 12 carries for 69 yards and caught 11 passes for 129 yards and 2 TDs. He was drafted in the fourth round by Tennessee.


Michael Nysewander did not have to return for his final year of eligibility, but was put on scholarship and asked to move from tight end to fullback. To that point as a walk-on he had caught two passes for 21 yards, including catching a TD pass from Jacob Coker in 2014 against Southern Miss. He and Coker hooked up on another touchdown pass in the 2015 national championship season, a 19-yarder that was his only reception. But Nysewander was nominated for the Burlsworth Award, which goes to the nation’s top walk-on, primarily because he was clearning the way for Henry to rush for Alabama and Southeastern Conference records of 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns.


We don’t think ranking Jalston Fowler as the top fullback in the Saban Era is a tough call, and behind him we would put Smelley, Nysewander, and Huber.

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