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Alabama linebacker becomes latest experiment for Nick Saban in spring

Stephen Smith - Touchdown Alabama Magazine

The mad scientist is back to work. 

For Nick Saban, this would be the University of Alabama head football coach wearing a straw hat and making sure guys are paying attention to details. Also, spring practice is the time of year where he likes to experiment with his players.

After providing his statement to the press on Friday – when it comes to players getting back to the Crimson Tide’s standard – he singled out the tight end position as an area of concern for the team in trying to create depth. 

With losing Hale Hentges and Irv Smith Jr. to the National Football League, Alabama lacks consistent experience at that spot. It returns Miller Forristall, who played the entire 2016 season as a freshman, but has not done much since returning from a serious knee injury in 2017. 

RELATED: Nick Saban updates LB Ale Kaho, injuries for Alabama football

The duo of Major Tennison and true freshman, Jahleel Billingsley will serve the team well in years to come; however, both guys are still learning.

As for Kedrick James, an NCAA situation that caused him to not travel with the Tide for the College Football Playoff last year will force him to serve a four-game suspension in the fall. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound junior from Waco, Texas carries just as much athleticism as Smith and former UA tight end, O.J. Howard. 

He likes moving offensive players to defense, but this time Saban’s latest experiment is for the offense.

Cameron Latu, a freshman, was seen taking reps with tight ends on Friday. 

Hailing from Salt Lake City, Utah, the four-star was signed in Alabama’s top-ranked recruiting class for 2017 at outside linebacker. He played in two games last season – prior to the redshirt – but he was one of the nation’s top defensive end recruits and ranked No. 16 on the ESPN 300. 

“We do a lot of experimenting in the spring to see if there is a guy at some position that may have a better opportunity to contribute at another position,” Saban said.

“We have a lot of experience issues and depth issues at tight end… And having another guy suspended for four games next year at the position, three of the first four guys are gone. We need to get some people there and we have been encouraged by the progress he [Cameron Latu] has made.” 

Size is one thing the Polynesian has going for him. 

The 6-foot-5, 247-pounder developed quick feet as a linebacker, and now he needs the hands to pair alongside in run block and receiving. At the conclusion of the Southeastern Conference Championship Game for 2018, Latu flash a huge smile and told yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine that he is just “waiting on his time” and that “it is all about patience.”  

Can he develop into a big-play tight end? He will get his chance.  

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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