Brian Vogler has seen it all in his five years at the Capstone. A historic national championship run, the sting of defeat on the Sugar Bowl stage, the inauguration of the College Football Playoff era…yes, the tight end from Columbus, GA is the college football of Johnny Cash (he’s been ev-ry-where, man…figuratively speaking.) Oft the scapegoat of some of Alabama’s most notable failings, the senior has also been a part of some of Alabama’s greatest teams, there’s no doubt about it.
Ah, Brian Vogler…let us remember the good times.
Vogler was a coveted tight end prospect coming out of Columbus’ Brookstone High School in 2010, as offensive coordinators lusted after his combination of pass-catching prowess and extremely favorable physical measurables for the position. At 6’7" and with a history of big plays in the passing game, it’s easy to understand why schools such as Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU and Florida State were hot to become the future home of the big ginger. As a result, Vogler was tabbed the number seven TE prospect nationally by ESPNU, and was number 132 in their annual ESPNU150 list of the most highly touted high school prospects. For what it’s worth, Vogler was also named the ninth and 13th best TE prospects by Rivals and Scout, respectively.
There was a reason for the buzz surrounding the lanky TE, as he was a SuperPrep and PrepStar All-American following a senior season which saw him reel in 15 catches for 351 yards and six touchdowns. While those are not Nick O’Leary numbers, keep in mind the way in which high school tight ends are traditionally used as well as the limitations of high school quarterbacks. His junior season was even more impressive, as he had 21 grabs for 465 yards and six touchdowns. Vogler also showed versatility as an "Iron Man" player, seeing time at defensive end and amassing 48 tackles with eight tackles for loss and three sacks. He was a first-team Atlanta Journal-Constitution All-State designee who Tide fans had hoped would evolve into the second coming of Colin "Holla McGee" Peek.
The Early Years
After redshirting in his initial season in 2010, Vogler saw considerable action as a sophomore backing up Tide starting tight ends Brad Smelley and Michael Williams. He played in nine games, though admittedly, his stat line was somewhat underwhelming (a single reception for six yards). That was not alarming for the Tide staff, as while Vogler was utilized as a pass-catcher in his high school offense, the Tide always had hopes that the beefy tight end would become the type of road-grading blocker that it had in his predecessor Williams.
In his redshirt sophomore season, Vogler’s contributions increased, as he was called upon to play in 13 games for the eventual national champions. It appeared, despite the rather sedate notoriety status of Bama tight ends in that epoch, that Vogler was turning into just what the Tide needed: a vicious mauler on the end of the line. (Please reference Exhibit A, from the Tide’s 2012 rout of the Michigan Wolverines.)
Vogler, the Upperclassman
After a solid sophomore campaign, Vogler was set for a break-out performance in 2013. Heading into the season, he was a consensus member of most reputable All-SEC squads (albeit typically as a third-teamer), and he was on the watch list for the Mackey Award, presented to the nation’s top tight end.
With a confident AJ McCarron bringing the Tide’s passing game to full fruition, Vogler saw his contributions increase, not just as a blocker but as an offensive threat as well. Though used sporadically still (as is typical of Bama offenses of late), Vogler caught eight balls for 71 yards, including the first touchdown of his college career. Many thought that Vogler’s use as a receiver would wane with the addition of athletic TE phenom O.J. Howard to the roster, but Vogler remained cemented as the top option at the position due to his mastery of the offense and steady blocking ability.
While many expected the 2014 campaign to be Vogler’s breakout moment, it simply didn’t come to pass. Vogler remained a steady presence in the Tide’s run blocking game, but he didn’t get much of a lift in his receiving numbers with Howard becoming the primary target at tight end when the ball was in the air. Vogler had six receptions in 2014 for a mere 27 yards and a touchdown, though two of those receptions came in the season ending loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff semi-final game.
While Vogler will certainly graduate with a degree and have a chance to become a productive member of society, his NFL future remains a bit of an unknown. He is currently ranked the 28th TE prospect (out of 117 eligible) by nfldraftscout.com, which would indicate his pro prospects will skew heavily towards free agency if a team is willing to give him a chance due to his size (6’7" and 263 pounds), strength and championship pedigree.
Despite this, Vogler has much in which to take pride regarding his time in Tuscaloosa. He was an integral part of two BCS National Championship squads, was within seconds of playing for a third, and had a chance to play in the first-ever College Football Playoff. He was a part of Alabama’s most prolific offenses historically, and served as the pivot point from Alabama’s traditional use of the tight end as a block-first road grader to an electric pass-catching threat.
And, if nothing else…we’ll always have Michigan, 2012.