In both Lane Kiffin's and Doug Nussemeir's offenses, the tight end has become almost a forgotten position, particularly as a pass catcher. O.J. Howard is the only tight end that has been somewhat involved in the passing game, but senior Brian Vogler has been a major disappointment. Both Nuss and Kiffin also have mostly merged the H-Tight End position with the traditional fullback role, and put Jalston Fowler there. At the end of 2014, both Fowler and Vogler will graduate, leaving their respective spots open.
The Y-Tight End is typically lines up on the line of scrimmage next to the tackle. He is the prototypical tight end, and expected to be a powerful in-line blocker. The Y is also supposed to be a receiving threat down the seams. Vogler is typically the starter there, but O.J. Howard also plays as a Y a good bit too.
The H-Tight End or "move tight end" typically lines up back off the line of scrimmage, and often goes in motion pre-snap. The H must be able to be more of a lead blocker for the running back, often choosing a hole for the running back to run through and taking on the linebacker waiting there. In the passing game, this player is typically used more in the flats and as a safety valve for the QB. Jalston Fowler is typically the starter there, but O.J. Howard often lines up as an H in packages where Vogler is the Y.
RS Freshman Kurt Freitag has tremendous blocking talent and some experience as an H, but was recently suspended for drug-related things, so it is up in the air if he will be on the team in 2015. Converted 280-pound defensive lineman Dakota Ball has also played some H in jumbo goal line sets, but isn't exactly a natural tight end.
Transfer Ty Flournoy-Smith is supposedly a supremely talented Y tight end, but I haven't seen much of anything about him. He is a mystery to me. Rounding out the rag tag group is Malcolm Faciane. At 6'5" 265, the junior has the size and athleticism that scouts drool over, but has been suspended a couple of times for whatever reasons, and after four years, has still not cracked the playing rotation.
O.J. Howard will be the only returning Tight End with any experience (or really any potential, for that matter). And while the supremely athletic specimen can potentially be a deadly weapon for any offense, he is still struggling with many of the nuances of the game.
The New Guy
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Hale Hentges is considered the number 3 tight end in the nation. You would think that a kid with that high of a ranking would have a little more information about him... But... Well, there isn't much out there. I only managed to find one football video of him, and its only a couple of minutes long. The website it is on is being difficult, so I can't embed the video of make any gifs of it like I normally do, but here is a link to the page.
Hentges appears to be a prototypical Y-tight end. He is an effective blocker, engaging his target and then driving with his lower body until the defender falls down. Hentges is best, however, as a vertical threat. He ran a 4.78 forty yard dash, which is really good for a high school tight end. His speed is mostly straight line, and I very rarely saw him change directions.
In my searching, I did find an interesting tidbit: Hentges is also a fairly well-regarded basketball player (aside advertisement here for all of you to watch Alabama basketball this year, things are looking good through the first couple of games of the season). This has been a trend in the NFL lately, teams are looking for former basketball players as tight ends, with the supreme example being Jimmy Graham. I noticed that Hentges's (Hentges'? Possessives are hard) basketball skills really translated well into his football game. He definitely has a knack for high pointing a catch above defenders, and having the body control to box them out and still land on his feet. That ability could prove invaluable in the end zone, and he could develop into that coveted red zone threat that all teams always talk about wanting to have.
Other guys to watch out for
I have not heard any rumors or seen any connections to any other tight ends this recruiting cycle. 247Sports has the number 4 tight end, Devonaire Clarington out of Miami, listed as interested in Bama, but I have never heard his name before, and never seen his name appear on a visit to Alabama.
Mekhi Brown, the DE/LB (and one of my favorites in this class) that I will discuss in the upcoming weeks, is also a really impressive tight end for his high school, so if he doesn't work out on defense, that is a position switch to look out for.
I apologize for the lack of content this week, but school got really busy all of a sudden, plus Hentges just does not have much of any information floating around the internet. My next few weeks will all be dedicated to the front 7 on defense, and its going to be a wild ride, so I hope you guys are ready for it!
On a more serious note, I am a bit worried about our tight end situation. Howard has struggled to be a consistent player, and is more of a speed mismatch weapon than an actual tight end. And behind him, well, there isn't much. Who do you think will step up next year?