When it comes to discussing tight ends and Alabama O.J. Howard, or the lack of how we used O.J. Howard, has naturally garnered most the off-season attention. We all had high expectations for Howard's true freshman year and after catching only 14 passes and hauling in just two touchdowns, we all wondered if Nussmeier knew O.J. was in fact an option in the passing game. Even Jalston Fowler, who isn't even considered a tight end, gets discussed more often than Brian Vogler. After all, he caught only eight passes last year and had only a single touchdown against Mississippi State. To say he was largely forgotten for most of the season would be an understatement.
What Happened to Vogler?
After the departure of Michael Williams, Alabama had a void at TE and Vogler was asked to fill more of a blocking tight end role (Y-Back), instead of the more Colin Peek type TE we thought he'd be. However, as a blocker, Vogler performed admirably. Brandon Greene, who was basically just a 6th offensive lineman, took on most of the heavy blocking duties but Vogler was able to fill the hole left by Williams, even though his pass catching numbers didn't really compare.
As a Blocker
Notice here how Vogler comes off the ball, squares up the A&M linebacker and seals off the inside, opening up the running lane for Yeldon. Without his block, Yeldon is likely stopped behind the line of scrimmage for no gain.
Yes, I know this the play doesn't bring back the fondest of memories, but watch as Vogler does his job to perfection, driving his man four yards to the inside.This play was doomed from the start, but at least Vogler did what he was asked to do and did it well.
Watch again as Vogler drive blocks his man down the line of scrimmage. Fowler actually gets stood up by his man, which forces Drake to take what should be an off tackle run, to the inside.
As a Receiver
Outside of the A&M game where he caught three passes for 24 yards, there aren't many examples to use as evidence of his catching ability. Sadly (blames Nuss forever), after the Colorado State game, Vogler only caught two other passes and one touchdown (shown below).
What you may not notice here is that Vogler is lined up wide to the left near the sideline (a formation we used quite a bit). As you'll see, he was able to elude one defender and was strong enough to avoid being tackled before reaching the end-zone.
The question we all asked regarding Nussmeier's play calling, at least in 2013, was why didn't he use the tight end position more effectively? Perhaps this was his eventual undoing, as Saban along with Jim McElwain used the TE quite often, especially in short yardage and goal line situations.
Now that Nussmeier has moved on we now turn our attention to Lane Kiffin and hope he'll redeem this offense and use both O.J. Howard and Brian Vogler not only as blockers but as weapons in the passing game. Having Vogler, Howard and Fowler all on the field at the same time create mismatch nightmares for opposing defenses and there's no reason to expect that all three can't be used and used at a high level.
With so many weapons at wide receiver and the stable of running backs Alabama returns in 2014, I don't believe anyone, including Vogler, expect him to catch more than 16-20 passes in a season (and that may even be high).
However, I believe we all can agree on one thing, Vogler is versatile enough to deserve more than just eight catches and only one touchdown in a season. And what better safety net for a first time starter at quarterback than a 6-7 260 lb tight end in the middle of the field?