Fall Camp Report – H Backs & Tight Ends
O.J. Howard – 6’5, 237 True Freshman: We’ll go ahead and list OJ at the top of the TE heap because if you are like us, well, this is the kid you really want to know about. Howard is a gifted athlete who has already put on about 10 lbs from his initially reported 225 weight. Howard is a fluid runner who is easily able to separate from linebackers in coverage. He’s also blessed with outstanding hands, so you can see why the entire Bama nation is abuzz about this kid. Reports are saying that OJ is working very hard on his blocking and, as of now, that seems to be the only weakness in his game. A-Day showed him in motion as the H-Back and flexed out as a TE but wherever he was, he was like your favorite Waffle House – open all day long. We can’t wait to see how he’s used this year in the Tide’s passing game.
Brian Vogler – 6’7, 258 Junior: Brian Vogler really came on last season as a blocker and with Michael Williams moving on to the NFL it’s paramount that Bama finds at least ONE decent blocking TE. If you go back and watch the Georgia game last year, Vogler (teaming with Williams) was a key part of our rushing success so big things are certainly going to be expected of him. Coming out of high school Vogler was noted more for his ability to catch than his ability to block so don’t underestimate his hands. He’ll be Bama’s one and only full-time two-way TE on the roster starting the season.
Malcom Faciane – 6’5, 259 Sophomore: In two years we have seen very little to get excited about with Faciane’s game. He missed assignments last season in mop up duty and he typically did not seem to hold his blocks very well, either. In our opinion, he’s the reason the next guy on this list is even on this list…(editor’s note: Faciane has been suspended and is not participating in fall camp at this time)
LaMichael Fanning – 6’7, 275: HELLO BIG MAN! Just when you thought Alabama lost what was essentially their third tackle in Michael Williams, you suddenly see a bigger and stronger specimen in Fanning possibly taking his place. To be sure, Fanning will certainly be extremely raw and it will take time to get acclimated to this position. However, with the depth at DL and with Vogler being the only TE with the desired size for blocking then it only makes sense to try Fanning out at the TE position. Will it stick? It’s waaaaaay too soon to tell. But, what I can tell you is that Fanning brings much-needed size to this position. Additionally, it’s this dire need that will push Alabama to become more of a passing attack than a running attack – we won’t have two giant abusive TE’s to use in the running game until Fanning becomes useful here so Bama will use a third WR or a versatile H back instead.
Jalston Fowler – 6’1, 242 Junior: The Beast is back!!!! For those of you who have followed the Lighthouse the last couple of years (we used to do email updates prior to using this site), you know how much we loves us some “Nudie” Fowler. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s athletic. He can catch, block, run and shake better than any man this size should do. While we don’t expect him to be toting the rock much (except in short yardage/goal line situations), we do think he’ll be featured as a FB/HB in this offense. Sweet! (Editor’s Note: the first day of camp confirmed Fowler is working exclusively with the H-Backs).
Harrison Jones – 6’4, 244 Junior: Jones was utilized in an H-Back role during A-Day and appeared to more than hold his own. We’d hoped to see him grow into an in-line TE but it appears he may spend the majority of his time in the H-Back role. Of course, until Fanning can offer up something as a blocker then Jones may be the best we have to offer as the #2 blocking TE. Scary.
Kurt Freitag – 6’4, 240 Redshirt Freshman: During A-Day, Freitag was used quite a bit in the H-Back role as well and while he didn’t do anything fantastic, he also didn’t screw up any assignments, either. Freitag was built to be an H-Back but with Fowler and Howard in his way, he likely will not be used much this season.
Newcomers: There are no newcomers coming in this fall at this position. With OJ Howard in the mix, Bama is pretty well set for the time being.
What we said in Spring: We told you in the spring (here) that the tight end position merited its own positional review. Many sites like to lump the tight ends in with the receivers but in the Alabama offense that is an injustice to the TEs. The loss of Michael Williams as a blocker really should not be underestimated as his blocking will be sorely missed. Brian Vogler isn’t nearly the blocker Williams was and, worse, behind Vogler there isn’t anyone else on the roster who can bring size to the position. In fact, it’s that lack of size that has forced the staff to give Fanning a very long look at this position during fall camp.
The strength of this position is the athleticism that Fowler and Howard will bring to the H Back position and it’s this strength that will move Alabama from a 2 TE set to more of a 1 TE, 1 H-Back set. This versatility will allow Howard and Fowler to line up in the I formation or split out wide (and everything in between). Defensive coordinators will see the same Alabama personnel groupings but our different formations will allow us to attack any weaknesses the D gives us. If they play pass thinking Howard will flex out as a WR, then we can bring him down as a pulling H-Back in the run game. If the defense goes heavy, then you’ll see Howard flex out and abuse some poor LB. The TE/H Back position will be a key position for Alabama this year and certainly merits a write-up of its own, don’t you think?
Fall Camp Previews