Look out SEC defenses, Alabama’s offense has added another wrinkle.
After two straight Saturdays off, the Crimson Tide’s attack continued to roll with a 66-3 blowout over Kentucky. Only this time Alabama added a new weapon to the mix.
Making his first career start, sophomore tight end Jahleel Billingsley gave opposing defensive coordinators even more to worry about moving forward, recording three receptions for 78 yards against the Wildcats.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder wasted no time introducing himself to the Tide faithful inside of Bryant-Denny Stadium, pulling in an out pass from Mac Jones before hurdling over a defender as part of a 34-yard gain. Jones later found Billingsley near the sideline for 27 yards to help set up Alabama’s second scoring drive. The two linked up one final time late in the second quarter as Billingsley pulled in a 17-yard reception as part of Alabama’s final scoring drive of the half.
Not bad as far as starting debuts go.
“Jahleel’s been working hard ever since he has been here,” receiver DeVonta Smith said. “Just him getting the opportunity today to go out there and do the things we see in practice. The same things he does in practice, he came out and did in the game.”
Billingsley got the start in replacement of redshirt senior Miller Forristall, who sat out the game while nursing ankle and shoulder injuries. Following the game, Nick Saban said the sophomore put in a solid week of practice, helping him earn the starting nod.
“Jahleel is a really good athlete. He’s a really good receiver,” Saban said. “The big thing is consistency and performance with him. Every day he’s got to go out and do things a certain way that we can trust him and depend on him. He had a really good week in practice, and he played really well in the game today. Made a couple of really nice catches, and he’s a really athletic guy.”
Billingsley, a former four-star recruit, came to Alabama as the No. 5 tight end in the 2019 class. He briefly flashed his big-play potential last season when he trucked a Mississippi State defender during a 19-yard reception. However, heading into Saturday’s game against Kentucky, he had just one reception for 13 yards this season.
“I feel like Jahleel could be one of the top players to come through here at that position,” running back Najee Harris said. “Just what he provides and what he brings to the game, the speed and athleticism, his height, ability to block. I feel like whenever he gets everything under control he’s going to be crazy to deal with.”
Following the game, Saban said Forristall could have played against Kentucky. The redshirt senior, who has 10 receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown this season, will likely retain his starting role once he returns to full health. However, Billingsley certainly served as a capable replacement Saturday and gives the Tide another facet to the SEC’s top offense.
“We need more guys like him that are playmaker types to be able to step up and play,” Saban said. “Maybe this game today will give him some confidence.”
It will also give Alabama’s future opponents reason to worry.
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