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Alabama alums compare Jahleel Billingsley to SEC greats at tight end and see him as a potential first-round draft pick

Alabama TE Jahleel Billingsley catches a touchdown against Notre Dame in Rose Bowl
Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports

Next season has the makings of being special for Jahleel Billingsley.

He took the spotlight for the University of Alabama in its last seven games in 2020 and now has a chance to become one of the players in college football. Billingsley has a new offensive coordinator as a junior, but he works very well with tight ends.

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A native of Chicago, Ill., he is coming off a season where he totaled 18 receptions for 287 yards and three touchdowns. His scores came versus Auburn, LSU, and Notre Dame as Billingsley helped the Crimson Tide capture a Southeastern Conference title and a national championship. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder came onto the scene against Kentucky and carried his consistency throughout the rest of the season. A former four-star, Billingsley showed his hurdling abilities, hands, speed, and proficiency in routes.

O.J. Howard and Irv Smith were playmakers at the position; however, Billingsley eyes an opportunity to be better than both and become a potential first-round draft selection. Bill O’Brien produced success with tight ends at Penn State, New England Patriots, and Houston Texans, but two former Tide standouts see the offensive play-caller having a lot of fun with Billingsley.

Hale Hentges, who hails from Jefferson City, Mo., played tight end at Alabama from 2015 to 2018. He was on three SEC championship teams (2015-16, 2018) and two College Football Playoff National Championship teams (2015, 2017).

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During his career, Hentges was primarily a blocking tight end. He recorded 14 catches for 124 yards with six touchdowns in 59 games, but his best years came in 2017 and 2018. The 6-foot-5, 254-pounder totaled 10 receptions for 109 yards and six scores combined for both seasons. He played two years with Smith at Alabama, and Hentges sees a lot of Smith in Billingsley’s game.

“He was just killing out there last year,” Hentges said of Billingsley. “I have never seen a tight end run routes that smooth. He was a wide receiver on the field, and he was just blowing by guys. He is going to have an incredible year in the fall, and I expect Jahleel to play early on Sundays.”

Mike McCoy, the founder of Maximum Performance Institute in Birmingham, Ala., was a receiver for the Tide from 2006 to 2009. He tallied 54 catches for 547 yards receiving and three touchdowns in his career. McCoy was one of a few Mike Shula recruits that bought into Nick Saban’s system. He played a big role on the 2009 SEC championship and BCS national title team.

McCoy is expecting big things from John Metchie, but his eyes are also on Billingsley.

*McCoy talks on Jahleel Billingsley at the 38:43 mark

“He is a mismatch,” McCoy said of Alabama’s tight end on In My Own Words. “He reminds you of Evan Engram who played at Ole Miss. He is a natural pass catcher, he has versatility, he’s shifty, and he can separate with his size. How do you guard that? I think he will wreck the SEC as Kyle Pitts did at Florida.”

Whoever wins the quarterback job, Billingsley will be highly targeted. He is in for a monster year for the Tide.

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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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