TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A previously underutilized position group in recent seasons for Alabama once again showed its value for the Crimson Tide on Saturday.
Alabama tight ends Jahleel Billingsley and Cameron Latu accounted for 139 yards and three touchdowns in the Crimson Tide's 63-14 win over Southern Miss in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Last season, Alabama had only four touchdowns from tight ends, three from Billingsley and one from Miller Forristall. Through four games in 2021, Alabama already has six touchdowns from tight ends.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban often refers to tight ends as the best mismatch position on the field because it can be difficult for linebackers and safeties to cover them.
"So when you have guys that are capable of making plays in the passing game, I think it's a huge asset to the offense," Saban said.
With his big night against Southern Miss, Billingsley became the first Alabama tight end with 100 yards receiving since Irv Smith Jr. had 123 yards against Arkansas in 2018. He finished with five catches on six targets for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young said having a big target like Billingsley makes his job easier.
"Jahleel is someone that’s super dynamic, super explosive," Young said. "You got to see week by week how people are going to play him, and for him to be contributing definitely makes our offense a lot better.”
Coming into this season, Billingsley was the most experienced and highest producing tight end on the roster. Latu transitioned from linebacker to tight end prior to the 2019 season but did not have a catch.
Latu opened the season with two touchdowns against Miami and added two more on Saturday against the Golden Eagles.
"Cam has really come a long way," Saban said. "He’s got a lot of confidence. He’s blocking well. He doesn’t make a lot of mental errors. He’s really done a great job of catching the football. He’s always had really good hands, but I think his confidence has really improved."
Alabama linebacker Christian Harris, who faces Latu every week in practice, said the tight end is effective in multiple ways for the offense.
"Cam is a very explosive player," Harris said. "His ability to be effective in the run game and pass game definitely makes it difficult for us in practice."
Because of the mismatches they create, Billingsley and Latu have become valuable weapons for Young and the Alabama offensive a third of the way through the season.
"I think it's important to us that those two guys are a big part of our offense," Saban said.