Alabama comes into the 2023 spring camp with many unknowns on offense. Chief among them are who will be the starting quarterback and what kind of offense will new offensive coordinator Tommy Rees run? Many observers believe Nick Saban will move back to more of a classic I formation smashmouth football that is identified with his early Alabama era. Others think he will stick with the QB run-game-centric system that utilizes RPOs. The answer to what kind of offense the Tide will run is probably a combination of both of these strategies. If Notre Dame’s last two seasons are any indication, Rees will bring in a passing scheme that actually acknowledges the existence of a tight end as an offensive threat. The Irish’s Michael Mayer was the team’s leading receiver putting up over 800 yards in each of the last two campaigns with 16 touchdowns. Mayer was already a 5-star coming into South Bend but recognizing talent and correctly utilizing it makes for a successful OC.
Several returning offensive players have put on weight including the wide receivers. It could be that Saban wants a bigger, more physical offense. A key component to that kind of offense is the tight ends, and the return of the H-back.
- Cameron Latu - The former linebacker, turned-tight end was the starter the last two seasons, totaling56 grabs, 787 yards and 12 scores. He wasn’t the most polished tight end, but he was the best the Tide had. He has an excellent chance of being drafted.
- Kendall Randolph - Just as we suspected last year, this former Super-Senior again did not catch a single pass last season. It does not even appear that he was ever even targeted (did he even run a passing route in a game?) Yet, he was a valuable piece of the offense in his blocking ability. Of course, the use of such a player allowed defenses to basically ignore him as a yard-gaining threat.
Robbie “Ouzts Up Side Ya Head Outzts Up Side Ya Head”— CoachD (@coachD4Bama) December 7, 2022
Can we get a scholarship check on #18? pic.twitter.com/EoJygorNYU
- 45 Robbie Ouzts 6-4/258, Jr. - This rising junior perfectly fills the role of the blue-collar lunch pail H-back. He is a big solid guy with plenty of nastiness in him. Plus he has a glorious Magnum P.I. mustache and mullet that cements his candidacy as a fan favorite. Last season, he recorded four receptions for 43 yards while playing in all 13 games. He has logged many plays in the slot and some in the backfield as a fullback. It will be interesting to see how he progresses this spring and if he can become more of an offensive threat.
- 84 Amari Niblack 6-4/233, Soph - There were high expectations that Niblack could come in and contribute as a true freshman in 2022. He only caught one pass - a 15 yard touchdown against ULM - but there is no reason to think he will bust. With eight pounds added to his frame, he should be a receiving mismatch against most defenders. He is too talented to not show progression.
To be honest, I am not too wild about any of these guys.
- 88 Miles Kitselman 6-5/250, Jr. - As a late spring 2022 addition from the juco ranks, Kitselman did not have time to wedge his way into the Alabama lineup. He did catch two passes for 13 and five yards against Utah State and played in six games overall. As a junior this year, it is time to step up.
- 87 Danny Lewis 6-5/255, R-Fr. - He is listed as a redshirt freshman but did play in five games - all during garbage time. He is more of a blocker than a pass catcher.
- 85 Elijah Brown 6-5/250, R-Fr. - Brown came into Tuscaloosa at 238 pounds. Now at 250, hopefully he can see his first college field action after not playing last year. He was known more as a run-blocker in high school.
THIS HURDLE pic.twitter.com/LqBkj1aIqA— ESPN (@espn) November 19, 2022
- CJ Dippre 6-5/257, Jr. - In recent years, Saban has had some issues finding that big-time tight end in the high school ranks. So, he turned to the transfer portal and picked out a gem. This athletic Maryland transfer has good speed and hands with a little bit of “dog” attitude to him - something this team can use. He had 30 receptions for 314 yards and three touchdowns in 2022.
Ohio State TE commit Ty Lockwood brings down this TD grabhttps://t.co/sw5vZ4RsS9 @LettermenRow pic.twitter.com/3LHhS164HM— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) February 20, 2022
- Ty Lockwood 6-5/234, Fr. - 4-star prospect from Thompson’s Station, TN who has added nine pounds since enrolling in January. He was recruited more for his receiving abilities but he is an aggressive blocker and plays with an anger. He is familiar with lining up inside, out or in a slot. He is a good route runner and a naturally gifted athlete. He is one to keep an eye on.
One of the reserve offensive linemen could be handed a jersey with a number in the 80s and be asked to be a blocking tight end. Whomever among Elijah Pritchett, Terrence Ferguson, and Darrian Dalcourt don’t win a starting job could fill that role. Or possibly one of the freshmen like Kadyn Proctor, Wilkin Formby, or Olaus Alinen could step in those shoes.
PREDICTED A-DAY DEPTH CHART
Although Dippre and Ouzts play a different kind of tight end, Dippre probably gets more passing targets in the coming campaign. Both should play a great deal depending on the game situations. Fans should expect to see packages that utilizes both an inline and a slot H-back at the same time.
Dippre’s inline back-up is likely Niblack. Second to Ouzts could be Lockwood or Kitselman.
Are you feeling good about the tight end position?
Yes, much more diversity and an OC that can identify one.
Maybe, no one is really standing out.
What’s this "tight end" thing that you are speaking of?