When Alabama tight end Jahleel Billingsley caught his first pass of the season for a 26-yard touchdown one week ago against Florida, team members and fans alike knew he couldn’t be kept in Nick Saban’s dog house forever.
To Alabama’s pleasure, it didn’t take long for Billingsley to return to the offense full-time and to make an immediate impact on the field against Southern Miss.
Billingsley saw his first snap of the game at around the 11:30 mark of the first quarter and immediately made his presence felt with a 25-yard reception setting the Crimson Tide up in the redzone on its second on its first offensive drive of the game. That catch from Billingsley set the tone for offense and quarterback Bryce Young who has developed solid chemistry with the tight end behind the scenes and finally had the chance to work with him for an extended period.
“It definitely makes my job a lot easier,” Young said to the media following the 63-14 win over the Golden Eagles. “Jahleel is someone that’s super dynamic, super explosive. You have to see week by week how people are gonna play him, and for him to be contributing definitely makes our offense a lot better.”
Young and Billingsley certainly made it look easy, as the two connected five times for 105 yards and a touchdown.
One area head coach Nick Saban had been looking to improve was Alabama’s ability to generate explosive plays. In the Crimson Tide’s previous game against the Gators, it was only able to generate two passes that went for more than 20-yards and one of them was from Billingsley. Saban certainly saw an improvement in that department on Saturday as Billingsley set an average of 21 yards per reception as he helped push Young over the 300-yard mark.
“Jahleel is a really good receiver, and they practice a lot together,” Saban said to the media following the game. “Jahleel’s been practicing really well, so I think that’s something that we’ve wanted to sort of develop for our team this year, and we’re excited about the way it is developing. Jahleel’s made some really good plays, and Bryce made some really good throws to him.”
Young isn’t the only player Billingsley has had a positive impact on as he has also helped push fellow tight-end Cameron Latu to a different level. Earlier last week Latu said he loved playing alongside Billingsley and expects big things from the pair offensively which is exactly what happened.
Latu posted three receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown of his own against Southern Miss. Having multiple tight ends be able to contribute is something Saban and Alabama have always looked for, and Latu’s development has been a welcomed sight for the team.
“I think that having tight ends that are capable of making plays — I’ve always said this, you’ve heard me say it before — that tight ends are one of the best mismatch players you can have on the field because the people covering them aren’t always the best guys,” Saban said. “Sometimes their linebackers, sometimes their safeties. When you have guys that are capable of making plays in the passing game, I think it’s a huge asset to the offense, and Cam has really come a long way.
“He’s got a lot of confidence. He’s blocking well. He doesn’t make many mental errors. He’s really done a great job catching the football. He’s always had really good hands. But I think his confidence has really improved, and he continues to make plays. I think it’s important to us if those two guys are a big part of our offense.”
In just one game of serious snaps for Billingsley, he has already climbed up the season stat sheet for Alabama as he is now third on the team in receiving yards with 131 which is behind wide receiver John Metchie with 240 yards and team leader Jameson Williams with 299 yards.
Having Billingsley out of Saban’s doghouse will prove useful especially in Alabama’s upcoming matchup next weekend against Ole Miss.
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Patrick Dowd is a Reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, via Pat_Dowd77