The tight end is arguably the position that has seen the most change in the past 40 years of college football. In the era of the wishbone offense, the tight end was basically an additional offensive lineman with a different title.
Now, the tight end has a bigger role in the aerial attack than ever in college football, and Alabama’s use of the position is no exception.
Starting quarterback AJ McCarron has turned to tight end Brad Smelley seven times this season, more than anyone else, besides Marquis Maze. Smelley seems to enjoy his prominence in the Crimson Tide’s passing game.
“I feel like I can make plays, and me and AJ have good chemistry,” Smelley said. “I’m looking forward to making more plays in the future.”
While Smelley’s numbers stand out for a tight end, he has been one of many for the Tide this season. Twelve players have caught passes for the Tide this season.
“AJ spreads the ball out well,” Smelley said. “He really goes through his reads and progressions, and he finds the open man.”
When asked if Smelley wants to lobby to McCarron for more throws, Smelley said, “Ultimately, that’s going to be the game plan, me getting open and AJ finding me. He’s going to do what he does. If I’m open, he’s going to get it to me.”
Outside of Smelley, the rest of the tight end unit has been a big part of this Alabama offense this year.
“The tight ends have done a good job,” head coach Nick Saban said. “We think every position on our team can play better, and our expectation is that we will improve and play better. Brad [Smelley] has played very well, practices well every day and has been a very good special teams player for us.
“Michael has done a really good job blocking and has had a few opportunities catching the ball and has done that very well. We have some younger players that continue to develop that we think will be helpful to us down the road,” Saban said.
One of those other players is junior tight end and former defensive lineman Brandon Lewis, who received praise from Smelley.
“He’s a big guy,” Smelley said. “I think he’s the biggest guy in the room now. He’s a train wreck when he hits someone in the hole. He can catch the ball and run it well, too. He’s a good athlete; we didn’t recruit him for nothing.”
Moving forward to Southeastern Conference play and the upcoming game with Arkansas, preparation remains the same for Smelley and the tight end group.
“We’re looking to come out and practice hard everyday,” Smelley said. “That’s a big thing we harp on in the tight end room.”
One big thing for this game has been the apparent clashing of the titans with Arkansas’ prolific offense taking on Alabama’s top-tier defense. However, the Alabama offense has some firepower of its own, especially in Smelley.
“They have a good offense, but we have a good offense, too,” Smelley said. “We want to come out here and score as many points as possible and play well. Ultimately, the main goal is to be efficient.”
The goal for the Arkansas game may be efficiency, but Smelley has much bigger goals for his senior season as a whole.
“I want to win games,” Smelley said. “All of them.”