Impact Players

Jahleel Billingsley outshines Arik Gilbert of LSU, and becomes Alabama’s No. 3 receiving option

Jahleel Billingsley (No. 19) scores a touchdown for Alabama versus LSU
Photo by Kent Gidley of Alabama Athletics/SEC Media Portal

Alabama football has a marquee receiving option at tight end.

The collegiate game has slowed down for Jahleel Billingsley and despite the Crimson Tide losing out on Arik Gilbert and Darnell Washington in this year’s freshmen recruiting cycle, Steve Sarkisian has gotten its playmaker to shine at the position.

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In the last three games, Billingsley has caused the offense to open up more with his routes, hands and toughness. After totaling three receptions for 78 yards versus Kentucky, the sophomore has turned in 101 yards receiving with two touchdowns on six catches in matchups against Auburn and LSU combined. He brought in four receptions from Mac Jones on last week for 68 yards, including a 27-yard score in the first quarter. Billingsley was wide open on the play and Jones found him in the end zone.

His second touchdown of the season gave the Tide a 21-0 lead, and the team defeated LSU by a score of 55-17.

Not only did Alabama make history with scoring 50-plus points on the Tigers for the first time in the rivalry, but it also located its third receiving option. While fans still want to see one of its three true freshmen at receiver step up, getting Billingsley to emerge does help DeVonta Smith be more dangerous on the outside. Gilbert was more highly recruited than Billingsley and the Atlanta native is viewed as an elite athlete, however, the Chicago native outplayed Gilbert in a head-to-head meeting at Tiger Stadium.

Gilbert had just 29 yards receiving on five catches.

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Nick Saban spoke on Billingsley’s confidence after his game versus the Wildcats. With him recording two more quality performances, opposing defenses have to account for him.

This is going to create more chances for John Metchie, Slade Bolden, Miller Forristall and if a freshman breaks through, Billingsley’s game will generate a lot of frustration for defensive coaches.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, he is often compared to Irv Smith Jr. As a second-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in the 2019 NFL Draft, he played at Alabama from 2016-18.

He started to rise in his sophomore year, grabbing 14 passes for 128 yards and three scores. During his junior campaign in 2018, Smith compiled a stat line against LSU that resembles the performance from Billingsley. A native of New Orleans, La., the former four-star tallied four catches for 64 yards — including a 25-yard touchdown reception from Tua Tagovailoa at Tiger Stadium.

Smith averaged 16 yards per reception, and the Tide finished with a 29-0 win. As for Billingsley, he concluded his game with 17 yards per catch versus the Tigers. Alabama is going to be difficult to control, if it continues to pop out playmakers offensively.

Billingsley is the latest name and with it clinching the SEC West crown, the Tide is heading to the SEC Championship Game.

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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.

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