Tight end, the position that is usually forgotten but also holds the almost never-used secret weapon (except against Clemson). Over the years at Alabama, the tight ends have held a variety of different roles and responsibilities in different offensive schemes, but ultimately they rarely account for much of the passing offense.
Might that change this year with an offensive coordinator who once had Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez get nearly 1000 yards each in the same season?
The senior was a long time starter for the Tide who never quite lived up to the potential many saw in him as a recruit. He was a steady presence who went from an absolutely liability as a blocker early in his career to a dependable one as a senior. And though he lacked much playmaking ability, every so often he would appear to make a twisting back-shoulder catch on 3rd down to keep the offense on track.
The grad transfer from North Carolina didn’t take to the job like many hoped. He displayed absolutely 0 threat as a receiver, and was ultimately replaced as the short yardage blocker by linebacker Josh McMillon
A second year guy, Parker was a longshot as a recruit. Though a low rated player, the Tide took him due to his height and ability high-point catches over defenders. He didn’t develop as hoped, though, and transferred out.
#19-Jahleel Billingsley 6’4” 230
Hailing from Chicago, Billingsley was a bit of an afterthought as a recruit and thought to be a project who had a long ways to go to be a decent blocker. As a second year player in 2020, though, he burst onto the scene late in the season as a dynamic playmaker. His 274 yards bumped him up to the Tide’s 5th leading receiver in 2020, and that was with him only getting playing time in the final 7 games.
Billingsley displayed enough athleticism that OC Steve Sarkisian looked for ways to get him involved in more ways than a traditional tight end: he took handoffs, jet sweeps, screens, and even returned kickoffs.
Though the hype level for Billingsley going into 2021 is high, he’s still got a ways to go to prove he can be a consistent contributor and an improved blocker.
#88-Major Tennison 6’5” 252
The 5th year senior was forced into action as a freshman when ALL the tight ends got hurt, and he’s played in most every game in 2019 and 2020. However, he’s caught only 6 passes in his career, and not been able to crack the important lineup as a blocker.
#81-Cameron Latu 6’5” 250
Originally recruited as a pass rusher from Utah with crazy explosive athleticism, Latu found himself in a backlog on the depth chart a couple of years ago and switched to TE when the Tide needed depth. He’s been a special teams standout for years, and now, three years later, he’s finally got his chance to be a regular contributor on offense.
Latu was one of the stars of A-Day this spring with a massive catch and run where he outran a bunch of defensive backs for a touchdown. Rumors have also had him racking up some major receiving stats so far in fall camp.
The Sorta TE
#60/85-Kendall Randolph 6’4” 298
Really an offensive lineman by trade, Randolph has spent the last two seasons rotating in at “tight end” as a 6th offensive lineman in goal line situations.
Randolph has been working so far this fall as a full time offensive lineman and sprained his ankle, so his involvement here may be less than we’ve seen the last couple of seasons.
#45-Robbie Ouzts 6’4” 260
Ouzts is a massive human with scary strength and surprising athleticism. He’s got a lot of potential as a blocker, receiver, and someone that can flat out truck folks after the catch. As a true freshman, he’s got some work to do to get up to speed with the college game, but he absolutely blasted some poor linebacker trying to tackle him in the A-Day game.
#87-Caden Clark 6’5” 258
Clark grayshirted in 2020 to recover from a major injury he sustained in high school. He was recruited as an aggressive and capable blocker who may develop into a pass catcher over time with his height. Clark’s supposedly still struggling with injury so far this fall, so expect him to be at the bottom of the pecking order this year.
Expect Billingsley to be the guy this year as a hybrid receiver. I’m not sure he’ll have quite the season many expect, but I think he’ll surpass 500 yards. Latu will be the primary #2 guy and is a capable blocker as well as racking up 250-300 yards of his own.
Past those two, I expect Tennison to start out as a rotational piece when one of the other two need a break on blocking plays, but he’ll wind up surpassed by the freshman Ouzts fairly early on in the season.