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Meet the New Guys: Receivers and Tight Ends

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Yes, that is Trevon Diggs going one-handed

StudentSports

Last week, we kicked off the Meet the New Guys series by taking a deeper look into the freshmen that will be in the offensive backfield. This time around, we are going to move into the men that will be catching all the touchdowns during the next four championship years. As usual, I will be speaking about SPARQ and Z-scores with the assumption that you know what they are. If you don't, stop what you are doing and click this link.

With three of the four players in this group only receiving three stars (and the one 4-star recruit a possible candidate for playing on defense), this is easily the weakest group of this class. This will not be an issue in 2016, as the Tide's depth chart is fairly set for the starters, and tight end O.J. Howard is the only starting senior. However, if next year's class is not above average at these areas, it could lead to issues 2-3 seasons down the road.

One wild card to keep your eye on is Demetris Robertson. The 5-star receiver did not commit to anyone on National Signing Day, and is supposedly seriously considering the Tide. The general word around the web is that he wants to play for Stanford, but has not qualified academically to do so. In lieu of that, Robertson will choose between Alabama, Notre Dame, and Georgia. If he decides to commit at a later point, then most of my last paragraph can be ignored.

Without further rambling and delaying, let's meet some new guys!

T.J. Simmons-WR

Stars National Rank Position Rank Height Weight 40-Yard Dash 20-Yard Shuttle Vertical Jump Power Throw SPARQ Z-Score
3 469 81 6020 189 4.75 4.27 32.5 34 81.39 0.04


The three star receiver from the state of Alabama enrolled with the Tide at the beginning of January, and will have a leg up in trying to crack the depth chart as a freshman because of it. T.J. Simmons' 6'2" 190 body is ideal for a receiver in Lane Kiffin's west coast offense, as he possesses a similar body type to Calvin Ridley and Robert Foster, two receivers that have managed to gain Kiffin's trust to become a starting receiver.

Boasting a Z-score of only 0.04, Simmons is pretty much perfectly average when compared to players across the nation. Which means that he is well below average for an Alabama athlete. His 40-yard dash time of 4.75 seconds is especially weak for a wide receiver - especially one that weighs under 200 pounds.

Pros

Versatility will be key for Simmons. He is comfortable playing in the slot, split end, or flanker receiver positions and has even been an in-line blocker and an H-back at times. He consistently catches the ball with his hands, never letting it slip through to his body. He has a long, gliding stride, giving him a top speed much faster than that indicated by his 4.75 forty-yard dash. Simmons also has a natural feel for staying on his feet, and defensive backs often struggle to bring him to the ground after the catch. Lastly, he is an exceptional blocker from the receiver position, which will fit in perfectly with Lane Kiffin's penchant for receiver screens.

Cons

Almost all of Simmons' biggest weaknesses can be attributed to his lack of explosive athleticism. He takes way too long to accelerate to his top speed, and takes just as long to decelerate from there. This leads to some extremely poor route-running, as he does not have the lower body explosiveness nor the footwork to run efficient, crisp routes. He also has a poor vertical jump (again, no lower body explosiveness), and does not show much of an aptitude to go up and over defenders to make contested catches in the air.

Prediction

Simmons will likely look to fill the role vacated by Richard Mullaney in the future, being used as a possession receiver and blocker from his receiver position. With proper weight training, Simmons may be able to develop into a solid receiver later in his career. However, with the glut of receivers at the top of the depth chart, I see it highly unlikely that he plays at all. I think that he redshirts in 2016.

Trevon Diggs

Stars National Rank Position Rank Height Weight 40-Yard Dash 20-Yard Shuttle Vertical Jump Power Throw SPARQ Z-Score
4 113 4 6020 182 4.45 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A


The 4th ranked athlete is in the running for the yearly sweepstakes of my personal favorite player from the class (it was Daylon Charlot last year). The versatile athlete from Bethesda, Maryland is the younger brother of the Minnesota Vikings' rookie receiver, Stephon Diggs.

At 6'2" 180, Diggs is also built similarly to Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster, and T.J. Simmons, but boasts a better 40-yard dash than any of the three coming out of high school. Though Diggs did not participate in the rest of Nike's tests, I would guess from his tape that he is an exceptional athlete with a Z-score well over 1.

Though we're talking about him as a receiver, Diggs is very likely to be either a corner or safety for Alabama, and I can assure you that he has the talent to be extremely successful at any position he plays.

Pros

Have you ever heard the phrase "the game moves slowly for him" in a scouting report? Well, that applies to Trevon Diggs. He has an innate sense of timing, and knows the exact moment in which to make a cut or break on a ball that will leave the opposing player stunned. Whether juking or route-running on offense, or jumping routes on defense, he always seems to be a step or two ahead of his opponent.

To complement that intangible feel for the game, he is obviously more athletic than most every player in high school: faster, quicker, more explosive, and a better jumper than everyone on the field. Not only does he understand how to run routes, for example, but he has the leg strength and footwork to pull off the nastiest of fakes. This translates into his ability to make plays after the catch, and again, in his defensive pass coverage abilities.

He also is extremely comfortable with the ball in the air. He adjusts his body well to easily out-leap opposing players, and rarely loses jump balls. He has big, powerful hands that can pluck the ball out of the air, even while being slapped by the other competitor.

Cons

To be honest, there is not much to say here. He could use about 15 more pounds on his frame to play around 200 pounds and be even more of a physical nightmare to other teams than he already is. He plays with bravado that may be borderline arrogant, and that will have to be watched by Coach Saban to make sure it never gets out of hand.

Prediction

Diggs is already a complete player with strong attention to techniques and details coupled with elite athleticism. At this point, the real question will be what position can he contribute the most? Before Alabama signed four corners on National Signing Day, I was leaning towards him being a defensive back. However, with T.J. Simmons being the only other receiver in this class, I now think he will end up being a receiver.

There likely won't be room for him to really contribute his freshman year with Ridley, Foster, Stewart, and Gehrig Dieter all vying for the top three spots, but he could see some playing time as a second string receiver. I think that Saban will deem him valuable enough to be a depth guy in case of injury or fatigue, and he will not redshirt this year.

Miller Forristall

Stars National Rank Position Rank Height Weight 40-Yard Dash 20-Yard Shuttle Vertical Jump Power Throw SPARQ Z-Score
3 381 17 6050 210 4.87 4.38 30.5 37 87.51 0.98


The 17th ranked tight end in the nation is, like Simmons, also an early enrollee with the Tide. Miller Forristall will join the Tide as a tight end/receiver hybrid player, similar to O.J. Howard. Forristall's 0.98 Z-score is boosted by his exceptional testing results in the 20-yard shuttle and the powerball toss.

He is a former quarterback that moved to tight end during his junior year when 2018's top recruit, Trevor Lawrence, exploded as passer. As such, Forristall is a versatile athlete with the willingness to play at whatever position his team needs, be it quarterback, tight end, or even defensive end.

Pros

With his height and striding speed, Forristall is prototypical threat for action deep down the seams. He's fast, changes directions exceptionally well for a tight end, and has naturally good hands. He's adept at using his body to keep defenders away from the ball, often overpowering those that even initially had better position than he did. He's also surprisingly nimble and elusive after the catch. Despite his relative newness to the position, he is also a willing and aggressive blocker.

Cons

He has not been a tight end for very long. He doesn't yet understand how to consistently move his body and feet to run good routes, and also gets very off balance when blocking. Despite his size, he also does not break very many tackles, and is easily tripped by defenders going for his legs.

Prediction

Forristall is basically a less athletic O.J. Howard. Both were speed/height projects with little experience or technique training at the tight end position in high school. He will look to factor in as the H-tight end role that Howard will vacate at the end of 2016 as a tight end/slot receiver hybrid. With a year or two of work on learning the position, I think Forristall will easily outplay the expectations of a three star player, but he will redshirt this year as a freshman.

Irvin Smith

Stars National Rank Position Rank Height Weight 40-Yard Dash 20-Yard Shuttle Vertical Jump Power Throw SPARQ Z-Score
3 527 23 6040 230 4.79 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A


To be frank, I think that Irvin Smith is only a part of this recruiting class because Brendan Scales decommitted at the last second.

With that out of the way, Smith is third-lowest ranked player in this class, but boasts pretty prototypical size for an in-line tight end in Kiffin's offense. The 23rd ranked tight end out of Louisiana also ran a pretty respectable 4.79 forty yard dash, and is one of those coveted basketball-player-turned-tight-end types made famous by Jimmy Graham.

Pros

Quick feet. Smith runs with short, choppy steps that aid him in quickly changing direction and accelerating out of it. He has a surprising burst from the line of scrimmage that often catches linebackers off guard, leaving him wide open for large chunks of yardage. He is a decent threat after the catch, and is often able to slip past the first man before going down.

He's an above average blocker, and uses his upper body strength well without getting off balance to knock defenders backwards. He's also a starter as a blocker on special teams, showing his versatility and willingness to help the team.

Cons

He never pulls out of his choppy steps. Even when running at full speed, Smith never seems to extend his stride to hit that extra gear. This leads to him running poor routes that go over 5-8 yards, and defenders have no problem running him down, even if he caught an open ball on a breakaway. He also does not have natural hands and the ball tends to bounce around in his arms quite often, even on his open catches.

Prediction

Irvin Smith will have a lot of work to do to garner playing time on offense for Alabama. However, with his versatility and willingness to block on special teams, he stands a chance to carve out a role as a blocker on kick returns, even as a true freshman. I am on the fence about this one, but I think he won't quite be ready to do that this year, and will also redshirt this year.