BamaOnLine.com takes a look ahead at the tight end position.
With Michael Williams moving on, Brian Vogler appears to be next in line at tight end.
Starter lost: 89 Michael Williams.
January enrollee: 88 OJ Howard.
Did you know? Five different players have led the tight end position in receptions in each of the last five seasons: Nick Walker, Colin Peek, Preston Dial, Brad Smelley and Williams ... Williams' 24 receptions a season ago were the second fewest by a starting tight end in the Nick Saban era at Alabama ... Williams' four touchdown receptions in 2012 tied Smelley for the most in a season by a UA tight end in the Saban era ... UA's returning tight ends have a combined four career receptions to their credit, with Vogler accounting for three of the grabs ... Last season, the Alabama offense opened games in its multiple tight end set on four occasions, down from ten in 2011.
The big question: For the fifth straight spring, Alabama is in the market for a starting tight end. Vogler ended the season as the other guy in UA's two tight end look, leading one to believe that he's in line to take over for Williams as the top option at the position. If that proves to be the case, there's still the question of who will step forward and nail down the second spot, which is anything but a complementary role.
Time to make a move: Take your pick from Faciane and Jones. In having the classic tight end size needed to deal with defensive ends and outside linebackers in the running game, Faciane has something most of the other candidates don't. If there's one role he can fill for the offense, it's that of a run blocker. Likewise, Jones will need to establish himself as a strong blocker because he's limited as a receiver.
Best of the bunch: It's Vogler by default. None of the other tight ends have made much of an impact to date.
Biggest upside: Long and freakishly athletic, Howard brings big-play potential to the position. When flexed out, he'll add a Tyler Eifert-like dimension to the offense. To be an every down option at the spot, however, he'll need to show he can hold his own as a blocker.
Don't be shocked if: Getting Jalston Fowler back on the field should help answer some questions here. Fowler is a running back by trade but as we saw during the first two games of the 2012 season, the junior can be very effective as a lead back out of the I formation.
Lest we forget: In Saban's six seasons in Tuscaloosa, Crimson Tide tight ends and H backs have combined to make 131 starts in 81 games. With the talent UA has stockpiled at wide receiver, we'll likely see a continuation of last year's approach, which consisted more of three wides than two tights. Make no mistake about it, though, the tight end position will continue to play a prominent role in an offense whose identity is centered on running the football.
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