After welcoming in a dozen early enrollees in January, the rest of Alabama’s 2022 class is set to arrive on campus at the end of the month. The Crimson Tide will be joined by 11 freshmen summer arrivals as well as junior college transfer Miles Kitselman, who committed to Alabama earlier this month.
BamaCentral will break down the arrivals one by one. Today we continue with an elite pass-catching tight end in Amari Niblack.
Niblack is listed as an athlete but will work primarily as a tight end in college. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound playmaker was rated as the No. 5 athlete and No. 146 overall player in this year’s class, according to the 247Sports Composite.
Niblack doesn’t have much experience as an in-line blocker but is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses as a receiver. During the recruiting process, he earned high praise from Nick Saban who compared him to Alabama great Julio Jones. Niblack has the speed to line up out wide as more of a true receiver but should be most deadly in the slot where he can either bully smaller defensive backs or outrun opposing linebackers over the middle.
During his senior season of high school, Niblack recorded 60 receptions for 939 yards and 10 touchdowns. While he enters college a bit raw in some areas, he has the talent to make an impact early in his career.
How he fits into Alabama
Niblack could fill the role left behind by departing tight end Jahleel Billingsley. While Billingsley’s time with the Crimson Tide ultimately ended in frustration, he provided glimpses of what an athletic tight end could bring to Alabama’s high-powered attack.
Niblack offers a similar skill set to Billingsley. If the freshman can keep his head on straight and pick up the offense fast this fall, he could fill in instantly for the departing transfer.
Alabama returns Cameron Latu, who recorded 26 receptions for 410 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Outside of that, Robbie Ouzts’ one reception for 8 yards is the only other receiving production the Crimson Tide brings back in the unit. Regardless of whether Niblack breaks into the first-team offense, he’s Alabama’s brightest pass-catching option at the position moving forward.
What to expect next year
Niblack was originally scheduled to enroll early at Alabama but ended up joining the team as a summer enrollee. While the spring reps would have certainly helped him get acclimated to the college game, he should still have an opportunity to fight for a role in the offense this fall.
Latu will retain his role as a starter, but Alabama’s other first-team role at the position is up for grabs. Outside of Latu, Ouzts is the most experienced returner at the position while Kendall Randolph could still contribute as a blocker. The Crimson Tide brought in early enrollee Elijah Brown in January and is set to add fellow high school signee Danny Lewis Jr. as well as JUCO transfer Miles Kitselman in addition to Niblack this month.
Niblack’s ability to play on a consistent basis will come down how quickly he picks up the offense as well as how he progresses as a blocker. If nothing else, he could offer a different look as a receiving option, giving Alabama’s opponents something else to scheme for next season.
"While working attached to the line of scrimmage, he is a willing blocker with great urgency at the point of attack, with length and leg drive to boot, including true comfort getting to the second or third level. While lined up split out, as he often is, he is a true dual-threat with the ability to stretch the field like a big wide receiver due to his stride, range and catch radius.
"As his frame fills out even more, Niblack has a chance to develop into a true mismatch nightmare in the SEC as the technique and receiving polish improves." — SI All-American scouting director John Garcia Jr.