Bryce Young Enjoys His Dynamic TE Duo
The old adage for the tight end position is that he can be the quarterback's best friend because of the numerous ways the position can create coverage mismatches. The Alabama Crimson Tide came into the 2021 season expecting to have two tight ends that could contribute at an elite level for a young, explosive offense.
Jahleel Billingsley was expected to be the biggest boon, but some off-the-field troubles stood in the way. That opened the door for Cameron Latu, who's taken full advantage of his opportunities.
Now that Billingsley is getting more reps with the Crimson Tide starters, sophomore quarterback Bryce Young might have two best friends to look for down the field.
"Bill and Cam have been a really great addition for us offensively," Young said Monday. "For both of them to be able to contribute, I feel like that makes us a lot better offensively."
The duo hasn't been used together very much, but both have contributed to the offense in their own ways.
While both players have shown to be capable blockers, though Latu more than Billingsley as a traditional in-line tight end, the modern game requires success in the passing game.
With plenty of offseason hype surrounding the former linebacker, Latu made his name known as a serious receiving threat quickly and has sustained an impressive consistency in his game through four games. He's caught eight passes for 119 yards and four touchdowns (including the fumble recovery score Saturday on a technicality.)
As for Billingsley, he's been eased into the rotation through the course of the season. Still, he's been just as effective as expected when he's taken the field. He's caught six passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
With both players having success, it's no surprise Young is happy with his versatile weapons.
"I have a tremendous amount of confidence and respect with both of them," Young said. "Being able to see them and us trying to, again, get them into favorable matchups and them be able to contribute both in the pass and run game, it's really unique and it definitely makes my job a lot easier.
"So, both of those guys, I'm super happy to have them."
The next step in the tight end usage for the Crimson Tide may harken back to offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien's most recent venture in the same position back in 2011 with the New England Patriots.
That season, the Patriots's offense wrote the book on using two-tight end sets (frequently referred to as 12 personnel) in the passing game. Second-year players Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez each posted the best single-season stats of their respective careers that season. Hernandez caught 79 passes for 910 yards and seven touchdowns. Gronkowski recorded career highs in his legendary NFL career as he caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and a tight end single-season record 17 touchdown receptions.
No combo of tight ends, in the NFL or in college, has come close to replicating that success since.
Alabama may have a chance through its conference schedule to unveil an attack that is at the very least reminiscent of the 2011 Patriots. If Alabama is able to incorporate that style of attack into its offense, not only will these dynamic tight ends garner national attention, but Young will see tremendous success in his own right.
Nick Saban has mentioned in each post-game press conference of the season opposing offenses are showing his defense things that weren't on film. Don't be surprised if the Crimson Tide has this little wrinkle waiting for Ole Miss in Bryant-Denny Stadium.