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Alabama 2021 Spring Football Preview: Tight ends

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The primary starter seems set, but who else will step up?

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Notre Dame vs Alabama Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Alabama tight end room will look a little different in 2021, but there will still be plenty of familiar faces. Long-time contributor/starter Miller Forristall is gone, but the exciting Jahleel Billingsley is back along with some other veterans.

The Departed

Miller Forristall - Forristall came to Tuscaloosa as a 3 star recruit in the Class of 2016 and leaves after five years as a two-time national champion. He had some unfortunate injury luck during his career, but he still managed to be a two year starter. Forristall never lit up the stat sheet - he had 44 career receptions, what Irv Smith, Jr. had in 2018; but he was a valuable outlet and a plus blocker.

Carl Tucker - Tucker was a grad transfer from the University of North Carolina brought in before the 2020 season to help provide some depth. He had some injury issues throughout the season that limited his role; but he played in 7 of 13 games, starting 4 of them.

Michael Parker - I haven’t seen definitive word that Parker is gone, but he was removed from the roster back in February and has remained off of it through the updates. So I’m assuming he’s gone. Parker played in one game during his three years at Alabama.

Returning Starters

Jahleel Billingsley - Billingsley is entering his third season and looks to be a prime breakout candidate. He showed a couple flashes in limited playing time in 2019. Billingsley didn’t have a large role in the first part of 2020; but he started to shine after Forristall got banged up and missed the Kentucky game. 17 of his 18 receptions, 274 of his 287 receiving yards, and all 3 of his touchdowns came in the final seven games. He also had 5 kick returns in the final three games.

Returning Reserves

Major Tennison - Tennison is entering his fifth season with the Tide and is now the most veteran member of the tight end corps. He has played a good bit but hasn’t been much of a target in the passing game with the others ahead of him. Still, he has played in 25 of 26 games the last two seasons, whether at tight end or on special teams. He has a prime opportunity to expand his role with the departures of Forristall and Tucker.

Cameron Latu - Latu is another with a great opportunity ahead of him. He originally signed with Alabama as a 4 star DE/OLB in the Class of 2018. Latu played in two games as a freshman, but the staff decided to convert him to tight end in the offseason. He had some high school experience on the offensive side - 10 receptions, 168 yards, 1 touchdown as a senior - but playing the position full-time and at the college level has required some time to adjust. Latu played primarily on special teams in 2019, but he found a bit more playing time on offense in 2020. He’s now in his third year at the position and has the chance to show off his crazy athleticism. In his Meet the New Guys series, Brent highlighted just how impressive his numbers were. Brent also had the foresight to include a note about his tight end experience.

Latu is also an experienced tight end. He’s an aggressive and nasty blocker and is also hell-on-wheels for defenders trying to tackle him as muscles through and pinballs off of everyone for way more yards than he should get.

Kendall Randolph - Randolph is not a pure tight end, but we’ll include him here anyway. He spent his first two seasons buried on the offensive line depth chart, but he found his way onto the field in 2019. After injuries to the tight end room during the season, the coaches converted the 6’4, 298lb Randolph to a jumbo tight end. Since then, Randolph has played both as a back-up offensive lineman and a blocking tight end. There are open spots on the line this offseason, so the fifth year player may get some opportunities there, but the tight end room is light on experience.

Newcomers

Caden Clark - Clark was a 3 star member of the Class of 2020, but an injury late in his senior season of high school led to a grayshirt, which means he joined the early enrollees of the Class of 2021 this past January. Clark is listed at a solid 6’4, 258lbs; so bulking up won’t be a need. Since we haven’t seen anything of him yet, I’ll cheat and refer back to Brent’s Meet the New Guys content (seriously, read all of those articles).

he’s got a good feel for splitting zones and finding those open spots in the defense anyway. He’s got great hands and can twist around to catch bad throws behind him— he’s got a number of one-handed catches in that exact situation to his credit— and also has the height to reach up and catch balls that would go over most people’s heads….He’s an aggressive and powerful blocker in the run game who likes to drop low and then block up and into the defender’s chest on the line of scrimmage.

Robbie Ouzts - Ouzts was a 3 star member of the Class of 2021, and he’s already on campus. Like Clark, Ouzts comes in listed at a good size for an SEC tight end - 6’4, 260lbs. Here’s what Brent had to say about him.

He’s a nasty blocker, specializes at moving around in the backfield, has the basketball athleticism to make tough catches, can get a surprise broken tackle on occasion, and plays a bunch of special teams positions (kickoff gunner, punt protector, punter). Saban is going to love the dude.

Depth Chart

Jahleel Billingsley, Major Tennison, Cameron Latu

The main guy will be Billingsley. Alabama utilizes two tight end sets often, and Tennison will likely be that second tight end because of his experience.

After those two, it gets a bit murkier. Assuming Kendall Randolph does not win a starting spot on the offensive line, he will likely get plenty of use as a blocking tight end; but you won’t see him running many routes.

Cameron Latu has plenty of talent and now experience, so I’ll give him the nod over the two true freshmen. I wouldn’t rule Clark and Ouzts completely out, however; they both enrolled early and have the size to hold up as blockers.