We previously suggested that outside linebacker Ryan Anderson might be Alabama’s most overlooked player going into the 2016 football season. We also gave some thought to defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson in this category. Otherwise, on defense, most of the expected starters have received recognition to some degree.
The offense is a little more difficult to gauge insofar as players who might not be getting much respect going into the season. That’s partly because of unknowns, particularly at the quarterback position, and partly because there are positions such as both guards and right tackles that are mostly overlooked in any event. Even though Alabama will be replacing a Heisman Trophy winner at tailback, there has been ample discussion of the top candidates – Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris.
Following Alabama’s victory over Clemson to win the 2015 national championship game, conversation ramped up on tight end O.J. Howard. Howard, however, is only one of the tight ends who sees regular playing time. And even though the senior Howard has bulked up to over 250 pounds on his 6-6 frame, he is thought of primarily as a receiver, particularly after that Offensive MVP performance against Clemson in which he caught five passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns and set up another.
Howard’s receptions in the national championship game came from him playing in the slot. But Bama also uses a tight end in the traditional line of scrimmage position next to a tackle. That tight end is also an eligible receiver, but traditionally has more blocking responsibilities than route-running plays.
And so we bestow the most overlooked title on offense to sophomore tight end Hale Hentges.
Hentges, a 6-5, 256-pound sophomore, played in all 15 games for Alabama last year, including starting two. One of those two was the College Football Playoff National Championship playoff game against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl.
Hentges has not been a receiving target of note. He has one reception for five yards against Arkansas, his only catch of 2015.
But he was an outstanding blocker for a prolific Crimson Tide running game.
Although Hentges has not yet come in for much conversation, he came to Alabama from Jefferson City, Mo., with outstanding credentials, including two-time all-state as a tight end as a junior and senior and second team all-state in 2012 as a sophomore defensive end. Scout.com ranked him 98th in the nation regardless of position and the No. 3 tight end prospect nationwide.
Hentges may continue to be overlooked by fans as a blocker, but he has also shown the ability to be an effective receiver.