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2023 Alabama Football Preview: A secret playbook for Tight Ends?

Is it for real this time?

Alabama Spring Football Game Photo by Brandon Sumrall/Getty Images

With Tommy Rees coming in as offensive coordinator after years of force feeding all-everything TE Michael Mayer the ball, there’s hope among Alabama fans that, after over a decade of waiting for the secret plays in the playbook for TEs, we’re finally going to see it.

O.J. Howard had his big games against Clemson, and Irv Smith had a good season when Tua Tagovailoa was slinging the ball all around the field to Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, and Henry Ruggs, but past that, the TE’s have had relatively small roles in the passing game for Nick Saban’s entire tenure.

And hey, for what also feels like the first time in years, the Tide actually has some depth at the position. There were a few years there where there were about three total guys filling out the depth chart, whereas now the Tide has a bit of a backlog with veteran and young players alike.


Cam Latu- Once a high four-star pass rusher from Utah, Latu wound up moving to TE as an emergency depth piece a couple of years into his career, then wound up being a 2-year starter for Alabama. It was a bit rocky for him, as he was riddled with inconsistency while learning a new position.

His athleticism and splash plays were high-end, though, and he wound up getting drafted higher than many expected, in the 3rd round by the 49ers.

Elijah Brown- The true freshman did not play in year one, and transferred out this fall. And that’s about all we ever knew about the guy. Oh well.

The returning veteran

Robbie Ouzts- It’s crazy to think of Ouzts as a veteran, but our resident bowling ball is now in year 3 and looks to build on the promising role he carved out for himself as a sophomore. He only recorded 4 catches last year, but he got a significant amount of snaps as a blocker, and has showed some stiff-arming juice with the ball in his hands a couple of times.

Returning Depth

Miles Kitselman - Kitselman was a guy that signed out of JUCO with Alabama very late in the spring of 2022. The Tide was mostly recruiting his younger teammate, Malik Benson, for the following season, but he apparently stood out enough that Saban brought him in. He’s mostly thought of as a blocker, and played in 6 games last year.

Amari Niblack - At only 6’4” 233, Niblack was recruited as more of a big wide receiver that is learning to play TE. He played in 7 games as a true freshman last year, mostly playing as an H-back/fullback kind of player on unique formations.

As someone with a lot of athleticism and limitless potential, he could develop into a dominant weapon under Tommy Rees as early as this year with the right circumstances.

Danny Lewis, Jr.- Another second year player like Niblack, the hulking 6’5” 255 pound player saw some time as a freshman on the goalline last year but did not record any stats. Lewis stood out as a raw, but aggressive and powerful blocker in high school as well as a jump ball threat in the endzone.

With the right focus and development, Lewis could surprise many and play a legitimate role for Alabama this year.

The Newcomers

C.J. Dippre - Dippre was one of Alabama’s first targets from the transfer portal as soon as the books closed on the 2022 season. He had 30 catches for 314 yards for Maryland last year, and has some impressive athleticism for someone his size, with an awesome open-field hurdle highlight to his name.

Ty Lockwood- Lockwood is the true freshman of the group, and at 6’5” 230, he’s most likely a redshirt candidate as he bulks up to playing weight. He was more of a downfield receiver than an inline blocker in high school, so he has some learning and growing to do.

Predicted depth chart

It’s a bit tough to come up with a depth chart here, as there is usually 1, but oftentimes 2 TEs on the field on any given play. So is it 1 starter and a backup? Or are there two starters?

Saban tends to list them as TE-Y (the guy on the line) and TE-H (lines up in the backfield or the slot), but as years have gone one, the two players have become more interchangeable.

In any case, we’ll go with that split designation.

TE-Y: C.J. Dippre, Danny Lewis Jr., Miles Kitselman

TE-H: Robbie Ouzts, Amari Niblack, Ty Lockwood

I think that, by the end of the season, we end up seeing Dippre as the clear TE1, and Ouzts/Niblack rotate in and out with each other as well as Dippre depending on what Tommy Rees is wanting to accomplish with his formation.

The other there players- Lewis, Kitselman, and Lockwood- will be the depth players.