Alabama Crimson Tide: Hunter Henry

Ranking the SEC tight ends

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
4:30
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We started the day by ranking all 14 teams based on their receivers and tight ends. Next, we looked at the top 10 wide receivers in the SEC. Now it’s time to look at the top 10 tight ends.

[+] EnlargeO.J. Howard
AP Photo/Butch DillO.J. Howard figures to play a bigger role in Alabama's offense in 2014.
1. O.J. Howard, So., Alabama: He’s big, he’s strong and boy is he athletic. There were times last season when Howard looked unstoppable. Linebackers were too slow to keep up with him and cornerbacks were too small to cover him one on one. But he was underutilized as a freshman, failing to catch a pass in five games. With Lane Kiffin now running the offense and a new quarterback under center, Howard won’t go unnoticed as a sophomore.

2. Hunter Henry, So., Arkansas: Even without any consistency at quarterback, Henry emerged as one of the most promising young tight ends in the country as a true freshman last year, a pass-catcher who wasn't afraid to go over the middle. He finished with 28 catches for 409 yards and four touchdowns, and this year coaches are expecting even more.

3. Evan Engram, So., Ole Miss: Injuries clouded an otherwise eye-opening rookie campaign. He started last season on a tear with 20 catches and four touchdowns through seven games and then missed the final five games of the regular season. If he has a clean bill of health, he’s the type of hybrid receiver-tight end who can flourish in Hugh Freeze’s offense and complement Laquon Treadwell on the outside.

4. Jake McGee, Sr., Florida: The Gators' outlook at tight end went from bleak to rosy in one stroke when McGee transferred from Virginia, where he was the Cavs' leading receiver last season. At 6-6, 255, he gives quarterback Jeff Driskel a veteran safety net he can turn to in a pinch. Last season at UVA, McGee got a first down or touchdown on 26 of his 43 receptions.

5. Malcolm Johnson, Sr., Mississippi State: When he arrived in Starkville, Johnson was a three-star wide receiver who weighed only 200 pounds. Now, four years later, he’s 231 pounds and considered one of the better tight ends in the conference. He not only has evolved into a tight end, he ha become more productive every year. He had his best season yet last year with 30 catches for 391 yards and two touchdowns.

6. Rory Anderson, Sr., South Carolina: The only question with Anderson is his health. He tore his triceps during spring practice, but the Gamecocks are optimistic that he will be ready for the season. He's a big-play target at tight end who has averaged 17.8 yards per catch during his career and had five touchdowns as a sophomore.

[+] EnlargeJay Rome
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMIGeorgia's Jay Rome, who was the top-ranked tight end in the Class of 2011, has 20 career catches for the Bulldogs.
7. Jay Rome, Jr., Georgia: Everybody is excited about incoming freshman Jeb Blazevich, but don’t sleep on Rome. He only had nine catches last year, but he played behind Arthur Lynch and missed the final four games with an injury. At 6-foot-6, 254 pounds, Rome will provide a big target for quarterback Hutson Mason, and be an asset in the rushing game.

8. Cameron Clear, Sr., Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin’s wide-open up-tempo offense doesn’t have an extensive history of using tight ends but he hasn’t always had the kind of premier player at the position to utilize. Clear, a massive 6-6, 274-pounder who can move well for his size, gives the Aggies a matchup advantage at the position. He wasn’t used often in his first year on campus, but look for his role to expand this fall under new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.

9. Jerell Adams, Jr., South Carolina: With three touchdown catches in 22 career games, Adams is one of those players who could explode this season. He's got great size (6-6, 247) and more than enough speed to get open and make plays down the field.

10. C.J. Uzomah, Sr., Auburn: He might not be the most productive tight end in the SEC, but he’s one of the most clutch. Uzomah had the game-winning touchdown grab against Mississippi State, and he caught another touchdown in the Iron Bowl. As quarterback Nick Marshall evolves as a passer, Uzomah could see his stock rise.
AUBURN, Ala. -- There wasn’t much fire in the voice of Gus Malzahn as he stood at the podium following Auburn’s first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday. All told, it was a pretty boring scene. No injuries to report. No position changes to speak of. Only one turnover and a handful of big plays. His team had to move indoors because of the threat of rain, but as he said, “It didn’t bother us a bit.”

Watching Malzahn, you got the feeling he wasn’t playing coy. This was the difference a year makes. Last spring was an anxious time for Auburn. There was no quarterback, no depth chart and no sense of expectations. Malzahn and Co. were simply trying to pick up the pieces left behind from the previous staff.

This spring has a much different tone. All one needed to do was look at the long-sleeve, collared shirt Malzahn wore after practice, the one with the SEC championship patch on its left shoulder. The building phase of Malzahn’s tenure is over. The questions are much fewer this year than the last. And with that, the sense of urgency is far more diminished.

“We've got more information now, so we're not as urgent,” Malzahn said. “We pretty much know a lot about the guys returning.”

Not every coach in the SEC is in the same enviable position.

“You've also got to keep in mind next year," Malzahn said. "You want to get your guys as much reps as you can moving forward for next year, because that's what it's all about ... but I would say, probably, for the most part, that we've got guys in the position that we want them to be in."

Not every coach can afford to look ahead this spring. Not every coach has the time.

With that said, let’s take a look at the programs with the most to accomplish this spring, ranking all 14 schools by the length of their to-do list.

Vanderbilt: Any new coaching staff has the most work to do, from determining the roster to installing new schemes on both sides of the ball. Throw in a new starting quarterback and the raid James Franklin put on the recruiting class, and it adds up to an enormously important spring for Derek Mason.

Kentucky: Mark Stoops has done a lot to turn around the culture at Kentucky. In fact, veteran defensive end Alvin Dupree said it feels like more of a football school now. But the fact remains that Stoops has a very young group to deal with, so inexperienced that true freshman Drew Barker is in contention to start at quarterback.

Tennessee: The Vols are facing many of the same challenges in Year 2 under Butch Jones. He has brought in a wealth of talent, including a remarkable 14 early enrollees. Considering the Vols lost all of their starters on both the offensive and defensive lines, there’s a lot of work to do.

Florida: The hot seat knows no reason. All is good in Gator Land right now as a new offense under a new coordinator is installed, injured players -- including starting quarterback Jeff Driskel -- return, and expectations creep upward. But a bad showing in the spring game could change the conversation quickly for Will Muschamp.

Arkansas: There’s nowhere to go but up for Bret Bielema after a 3-9 finish his first year with the program. The good news is he has young playmakers on offense (Hunter Henry, Alex Collins, etc.). The bad news is the quarterback position is unsettled and his defensive coaching staff is almost entirely overhauled from a year ago.

LSU: A depth chart full of question marks is nothing new for Les Miles, who has endured plenty of underclassmen leaving for the NFL before. But missing almost every skill player on offense (Zach Mettenberger, Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry) hurts. He has to find replacements at several key positions, and we haven’t even gotten into the defense.

Texas A&M: Cedric Ogbuehi can replace Jake Matthews at left tackle. The combination of Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil can replace Mike Evans at receiver. But who replaces the legend of Johnny Football? Determining a starter under center won’t be easy, but neither will be overhauling a defense that was far and away the worst in the SEC last year.

Georgia: Jeremy Pruitt should breathe some new life into a struggling Georgia defense. Having Hutson Mason to replace Aaron Murray helps as well. But off-the-field problems continue to plague Mark Richt’s program. With stars such as Todd Gurley, the players are there. The pieces just need to come together.

Missouri: After 13 seasons in Columbia, Gary Pinkel knows how to handle the spring. Maty Mauk appears ready to take over for James Franklin at quarterback, and even with the loss of Henry Josey, there are still plenty of weapons on offense. The real challenge will be on defense, where the Tigers must replace six starters, including cornerstones E.J. Gaines, Kony Ealy and Michael Sam.

Alabama: The quarterback position won’t be settled this spring, so we can hold off on that. But still, Nick Saban faces several challenges, including finding two new starters on the offensive line, replacing C.J. Mosley on defense and completely overhauling a secondary that includes Landon Collins and a series of question marks.

Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze has his players. Now he just has to develop them. With emerging stars Robert Nkemdiche, Tony Conner, Laremy Tunsil, Evan Engram and Laquon Treadwell, there’s plenty to build around. Include a veteran starting quarterback in Bo Wallace and there’s a lot to feel good about in Oxford.

Mississippi State: It’s a new day in the state of Mississippi as both state institutions have high expectations this spring. Mississippi State returns a veteran defense, a solid offensive line and a quarterback in Dak Prescott who could turn into a Heisman Trophy contender. A few months after Dan Mullen was on the hot seat, he now appears to be riding high.

Auburn: Losing Tre Mason and Greg Robinson hurts, but outside of those two stars, the roster remains fairly intact. Nick Marshall figures to improve as a passer, the running back corps is well off, and the receivers stand to improve with the addition of D’haquille Williams. The defense should get better as youngsters such as Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson gain experience.

South Carolina: Steve Spurrier would like to remind everyone that Dylan Thompson was the only quarterback in the country to beat Central Florida last season. Sure, Thompson wasn’t the full-time starter last year, but he has plenty of experience and is ready to be the man. Throw in a healthy and eager Mike Davis and an improving set of skill players, and the offense should improve. The defense has some making up to do on the defensive line, but there’s no reason to panic, considering the rotation they used last year.
We couldn't finish our lists of SEC all-stars without talking about the youngsters who help make this league go round.

For our all-underclassmen team, we decided to use players who are true freshmen, redshirt freshmen or true sophomores. That means Johnny Manziel, a redshirt sophomore, wasn't eligible. I mean he can't make every list!

The criteria for our other lists once again apply. We're basing things on the season they had in 2013, not who will be the better draft prospect in the future.

Here's what we came up with:

OFFENSE

QB: Maty Mauk, Missouri
RB: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
WR: Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama
TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL: Jerald Hawkins, LSU
OL: Denver Kirkland, Arkansas
OL: Alex Kozan, Auburn
C: Evan Boehm, Missouri
AP: Mike Davis, South Carolina

DEFENSE

DL: Carl Lawson, Auburn
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
DL: Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida
DL: Chris Jones, Miss. State
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB: Darian Claiborne, Texas A&M
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Rashard Robinson, LSU
DB: Josh Harvey-Clemons, Georgia
DB: Landon Collins, Alabama

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK: Colby Delahoussaye, LSU
P: Landon Foster, Kentucky
RS: Trey Williams, Texas A&M

Our All-SEC second team choices

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
2:00
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On Monday, we gave you guys our All-SEC first team. Today, we thought we'd unveil our second team for 2013. There are so many guys in this league who deserve recognition that we just wouldn't feel good about not having another team to give props to during the holiday season:

OFFENSE

QB: AJ McCarron, Alabama
RB: Jeremy Hill, LSU
RB: Mike Davis, South Carolina
WR: Jarvis Landry, LSU
WR: Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
OL: Justin Britt, Missouri
OL: A.J. Cann, South Carolina
OL: La'el Collins, LSU
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn
AP: Todd Gurley, Georgia

DEFENSE

DL: Kony Ealy, Missouri
DL: Chris Smith, Arkansas
DL: Ego Ferguson, LSU
DL: Markus Golden, Missouri
LB: A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
LB: Avery Williamson, Kentucky
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
DB: Chris Davis, Auburn
DB: Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK: Colby Delahoussaye, LSU
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
PR: Christion Jones, Alabama
KR: Christion Jones, Alabama

SEC All-Freshman team

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
5:31
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Every SEC team has representation on the SEC All-Freshman team, which was released on Thursday.

The team was selected by the league's coaches, and coaches could not vote for players on their own team. Arkansas, Ole Miss and South Carolina led the way with four players each on the squad. Here it is in its entirety:

Offense:
TE:
Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL: Andrew Jelks, Vanderbilt
OL: Alex Kozan, Auburn
OL: Denver Kirkland, Arkansas
C: Jon Toth, Kentucky
WR: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
WR: Marquez North, Tennessee
QB: Maty Mauk, Missouri
RB: Alex Collins, Arkansas
RB: Kelvin Taylor, Florida
AP: Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina

Defense:
DL:
Chris Jones, Mississippi State
DL: A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
DL: Darius Philon, Arkansas
LB: Darian Claiborne, Texas A&M
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB: Skai Moore, South Carolina
DB: Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
DB: Tony Conner, Ole Miss
DB: Tre'Davious White, LSU
DB: Cameron Sutton, Tennessee

Special teams:
PK:
Elliott Fry, South Carolina
P: Johnny Townsend, Florida
RS: Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina

Hackenberg, Olsen earn UA Game starts

January, 3, 2013
1/03/13
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Black Team offense

Quarterback: Christian Hackenberg (Penn State)

Running back: Alvin Kamara

Receiver: Alvin Bailey (Florida), Robert Foster (Alabama), Damore'ea Stringfellow (Washington)

Tight end: O.J. Howard (Alabama)

Offensive tackle: Darius James (Texas), Denver Kirkland

Offensive guard: Grant Hill (Alabama), Joas Aguilar (Texas A&M)

Center: Hunter Bivin (Notre Dame)

Captains: Kelvin Taylor, Hunter Bivin, Robert Nkemdiche, Ben Boulware

Black Team defense

Defensive end: Robert Nkemdiche, Elijah Daniel

Defensive tackle: Greg Gilgmore (LSU), Kennedy Tulimasealii (Hawaii)

Inside linebacker: Ben Boulware (Clemson)

Outside linebacker: Alex Anzalone (Notre Dame), Matthew Thomas

Safety: Keanu Neal (Florida), Leon McQuay III

Cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida), Tarean Folston (Notre Dame)

Black Team special teams

Long snapper: Tyler Kluver (Iowa)

Kicker/punter: Sean Covington (UCLA)

(Read full post)

The O-zone: Fitting the pieces together 

December, 19, 2012
12/19/12
2:24
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TideNation recruiting writer Greg Ostendorf brings you another edition of The O-zone, a confidential look inside Alabama recruiting. Get the latest updates from the gridiron and the hardwood as it pertains to the Crimson Tide.

Staying home?

ESPN 150 wide receiver Robert Foster is set to make his decision on Friday between Alabama and Pittsburgh. Many people believe the Pennsylvania native is leaning toward staying close to home and playing for the Panthers, but don’t count out the Crimson Tide just yet. His father wants him to play at Alabama so he can one day play for a national championship. He also enjoyed his official visit to Tuscaloosa during the season, so much so that he nearly committed the week after. More than anything, he felt comfortable when he was in Alabama. The news of wide receiver Eldridge Massington’s commitment to UCLA late Tuesday night could also be an indicator that the UA staff feels a little more confident about Foster than they’re leading on. Foster indicated to ESPN’s Jared Shanker this week that he’s already made up his mind. He’s just waiting to go public with the decision.

Spot available

Sources say that ESPN 150 tight end Josh McNeil will not qualify for Alabama, which opens up a scholarship for the Tide to offer in the 2013 class. McNeil visited LSU over the weekend, but it’s more likely that he ends up going the junior college route. There were academic issues before he committed but Alabama took a chance on him, hoping he get it resolved by going up to Milford Academy in New York. With McNeil now off the board, the Tide have turned their attention to Arkansas tight end commitment Hunter Henry. Henry says the UA coaches have been by to see him nearly every week for the last month. He took his official visit to Alabama in November and plans to take one to Arkansas in January.

Safety help

Weekend Rewind: Alabama 

November, 12, 2012
11/12/12
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama came up short on the field against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M on Saturday, but off the field, the Crimson Tide enjoyed a successful weekend with a number of top recruits in town for the game. It was the Tide’s biggest recruiting weekend of the season to date.

The most notable visitor in Tuscaloosa was five-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia), who was accompanied by his mother on the trip. From all accounts, the visit went great and bolstered the Tide’s chances with the ESPN 150 star. Tunsil recently named Alabama and Georgia as his top two schools.

During the weekend, UA hosted just two official visitors: a pair of ESPN 150 tight ends, Hunter Henry (Little Rock, Ark./Pulaski) and Josh McNeil (Durham, N.C./Milford Academy). McNeil is already committed to the Tide, but for Henry, an Arkansas commitment, the trip gave him something to think about.

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TE Henry committed to Hogs, visits Bama 

November, 11, 2012
11/11/12
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Despite having two tight ends already committed for 2013, Alabama continues to recruit the position, and over the weekend, the Crimson Tide hosted ESPN 150 tight end and Arkansas commitment Hunter Henry (Little Rock, Ark./Pulaski Academy) on his official visit.

[+] EnlargeHunter Henry
Scott Drucker/IntersportHunter Henry is committed to Arkansas but was impressed by his visit to Alabama.
“It went great,” Henry said. “It was a great visit, and I had a really good time. The result of the game wasn’t what everyone wanted, but in the end, it was a really good visit.”

It was the first time Henry had been to a game at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and although the Tide came up short against Texas A&M, the game itself was the highlight of his trip.

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Scouts: Bama rebounds with McNeil 

July, 21, 2012
7/21/12
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Just a few days earlier Alabama lost out on a top tight end when Hunter Henry (Little Rock, Ark./Pulaski) chose to stay in-state and committed to Arkansas, but the Crimson Tide rebounded very nicely and landed a verbal from another ESPN 150 tight end Friday night when Josh McNeil (Durham, N.C./Hillside) committed. Henry is a more experienced and more polished prospect at this point, but by landing McNeil, Alabama got a prospect with nice upside and arguably a higher ceiling for development who with some work should be a nice fit for them.

McNeil displays a lot of natural ability, but will very likely be a prospect who needs some developmental time when he hits Tuscaloosa as his senior year will only be his second of high school football. While still a bit raw and unpolished in areas this is a prospect who demonstrates the tools to grow into a very good and well-rounded college tight end. He is a basketball kid who has nice overall size and room for further physical development which should come with some time in the Tide’s weight program. He can be a productive part of the passing attack as he possesses good hands and with a nice reach and good body control he offers a nice catch radius. He needs development as a route runner and to learn to become a more efficient runner, but he can get into his routes quickly, has some speed, and flashes the ability to be able to pick-up some extra yards after the catch. He also has experience as an in-line blocker which is key and he demonstrates the ability to develop into a productive player in the phase which he will need to be in that offense.

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According to multiple sources, ESPN 150 tight end Hunter Henry (Little Rock, Ark./Pulaski) will announce his college decision at 4 p.m. ET Thursday. His finalists include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Stanford and Vanderbilt.

The Crimson Tide already have a verbal from another top tight end and Under Armour All-American, O.J. Howard (Prattville, Ala./Autauga).

Three-star Deondre Skinner (Patterson, La.) is on board with the Razorbacks, the Cardinal picked up a commitment from three-star Eric Cotton Jr. (Nampa, Idaho/Columbia) in late June, and the Commodores secured three-star Nathan Marcus (Glen Ellyn, Ill./Glenbard West) back in April. Georgia and Oklahoma do not have tight end commitments at this time.

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In Alabama’s 21-0 win over LSU in the BCS title game, the Crimson Tide took full advantage of their tight ends. Brad Smelley led the team with seven receptions, and Michael Williams and Chris Underwood recorded two catches apiece.

That’s one reason why Alabama is still looking for another tight end in the 2013 class even though it has a commitment from ESPN 150 star O.J. Howard, the nation’s No. 2 player at the position.

It’s also a reason why Little Rock, Ark., tight end Hunter Henry has the Crimson Tide among his six finalists.

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The O-zone: July 11 

July, 11, 2012
7/11/12
11:15
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TideNation recruiting writer Greg Ostendorf brings you another edition of The O-zone, a confidential look inside Alabama recruiting. Get the latest updates from the gridiron and the hardwood as it pertains to the Crimson Tide.

In this week’s update:

  • Foster, Matthews plan visits
  • McNeil delays decision

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Hunter HenryCourtesy Sheldon Smith2013 TE Hunter Henry visited four SEC schools recently, including Alabama.
Top TE Henry visits four schools in four days

Little Rock, Ark. (Pulaski Academy) tight end Hunter Henry took a tour of the SEC over the weekend, visiting four schools in four days.

After making stops at Vanderbilt and Tennessee on Thursday and Friday, Henry attended Georgia’s spring game on Saturday before wrapping up his caravan on Sunday in Tuscaloosa where he visited the University of Alabama.

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