Alabama Crimson Tide: Harrison Jones

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Two-a-days are over and camp is nearly at a close for the University of Alabama.

Well, technically speaking. Nick Saban isn't ready to stop teaching.

"Now, even though the players are moving out of the dorm, camp doesn’t really end, to me, until camp ends," the Tide's demanding head coach told reporters on Thursday. "And camp really doesn’t end to me until school starts. And school doesn’t really start to where they’ve got school stuff until next week. So we’ll continue with our meetings and all the things that we do and kind of go from there."

Alabama starting linebacker Trey DePriest has been suspended for violation of team rules, according to Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, who stressed that the team's second-leading tackler from a season ago would be able to return to the field shortly if he fulfills his obligations.

DePriest, a junior with NFL potential at 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, missed Tuesday's practice in Tuscaloosa. He's part of a linebacking corps that returns all four of its starters from a season ago, including All-American inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and top pass-rusher Adrian Hubbard on the outside.

[+] EnlargeTrey DePriest
Paul Abell/USA TODAY SportsTrey DePriest has been suspended by Alabama for a violation of team rules.
"[DePriest] played very well for us," Saban told reporters. "He made a mistake. He didn’t do the right thing. It wasn’t a very smart thing to do, and there has to be consequences sometimes when you don’t do the right things. Hopefully, he’ll learn from it, it will make him better and he’ll have a better chance to be successful in life."

Saban also announced that star wide receiver Amari Cooper would miss the next few practices with a strained foot. The Pre-Season All-SEC selection led the team with 59 catches, 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, setting nearly every Alabama rookie receiving record in the process.

Cooper wore a black no-contact jersey during practice on Tuesday.

"He’s going to be out for a few days," Saban explained, "and then he will be day-to-day. I don’t think he’s going to be hurt for a long time."

Luckily for Saban, Alabama is loaded at wide receiver. Kevin Norwood, Christion Jones, DeAndrew White and Kenny Bell all have starting experience and freshmen such as Chris Black, Robert Foster and Raheem Falkins are pushing for playing time as well.

"The receiver group has progressed very, very well from where we were at this point last year," offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said at UA's media day on August 4. "We have a couple of new players, a lot of returning guys, a lot of guys who've played a lot of games. Obviously we had some injury issues last year that helped us develop some younger players."

Alabama was able to welcome back tight end Malcolm Faciane on Tuesday after he finished a 30-day suspension for violation of team rules. The 6-foot-5, 267-pound redshirt sophomore was in line for more reps this season after the departure of Michael Williams, but will have an uphill battle now that backups such as Harrison Jones and O.J. Howard have begun making their case for playing time.

"I don’t like suspending players," Saban said. "If we’re going to punish any players or suspend any players, it’s going to be in their best interest to change their behavior so they have a better opportunity to be successful. If it’s not going to do that, I don’t see any reason to do it.

"It’s almost like raising your kids. If you’re going to spank them and it doesn’t change their behavior, why spank them? If you take their computer or their cell phone away from them and it changes their behavior, I’d say that’s the thing to do. We would only do it in the best interest of the player."
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Consistency has been the hallmark of the tight end position at Alabama since Nick Saban arrived in 2007.

Michael Williams was as dependable as they come, starting 41 games in his four years on campus. He was big, hard-nosed and reliable, a force blocking downhill in the running game and a sure-handed target in the red zone. Brad Smelley and Preston Dial before him were the same way, blue-collar players who put their hand on the ground and went to work everyday.

Brian Vogler doesn't want that identity to change. Rather, he'd like to see it evolve.

[+] EnlargeBrian Vogler
Greg McWilliams/Getty ImagesBrian Vogler hopes he can play a big role in Alabama's offense.
A former four-star prospect out of Georgia, Vogler signed with Alabama in 2010 and watched the progression of the tight end position from afar. And like those before him, his No. 1 point of pride is his work ethic. No. 2 is his intelligence. He may not be the fastest or the most athletic, he admits, but he wants to bring a little something different to the table this season as the presumptive starter.

"Each year you have a different mold of a guy," he explained. "When you watch film on each guy, you try to take something they do and bring it into your game. That's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to pull everything I see out of their talents and try to mix it in my game."

At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, his size is the first thing you notice. And despite what he'd describe as lackluster athleticism, he can move. A former high school basketball player, he knows how to create space and use his long arms to shield defenders. That's only translated to three career receptions thus far, but that should change as he becomes a focal point of the offense.

Nick Saban called Vogler "one of the top conditioned guys coming back from summer," and praised his ability to sustain. Much of fall camp has been about promoting mental toughness for Alabama's seventh-year head coach, and he was able to point to Vogler on Tuesday as an example of just that.

"You create your own standard of superiority whatever you're trying to do," Saban said. "But the challenge is, Can you sustain that? Can you continue to do it with consistency and consistency in performance? That's one thing that he has, the mental toughness and maturity to do so it allows you to continue to improve."

Trust has never been in short supply at the tight end position for Saban. Unfortunately the ability to create big plays has.

If there's been one noticeable gap in Alabama's offense in recent years, it's been that no tight end has had more than 35 catches in a season since 2007. This past year was an all-time low as Williams and Co. combined for a paltry 33 catches and 249 yards. Meanwhile a new wave of tight ends like Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert snagged 50 receptions and 685 yards.

Vogler isn't likely to develop into that type of player overnight. But combined with backups Harrison Jones, O.J. Howard and Jalston Fowler, the position could become more potent in 2013.

Fowler's transition to a utility running back/fullback/H-back role was cut short by season-ending knee surgery last season, but now he's back where he left off, according to Vogler, who called the bowling ball of a back a "hard-hitting guy who's not afraid of anybody."

"That's the exact same guy you're going to see at the H-back position," he said.

Fowler's ability to play multiple spots on the field could be of use to offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Fowler said he had begged coaches to let him catch the football, and last year they finally listened. After having things end tragically, he said he's coming out with something to prove.

"I've got a big chip on my shoulder," he said. "I'm trying to show the world what I'm worth."

The wild card in it all is Howard, an early enrollee who came to campus in January and immediately began making waves. If there's anyone on the roster capable of taking the tight end position into the 21st century, it's him. A former four-star recruit, he was a "monster on tape," according to scouts. He has the size at 6-foot-6 and 237 pounds to dominate cornerbacks and the track-level speed to blow by linebackers.

Vogler called Howard a "whole new dimension to this offense" in the spring and praised his athleticism and ability to run after the catch. If he made the right kind of progress, Vogler said he thought he'd be a viable part of the offense.

On Tuesday, Vogler revisited the subject, praising the way the former blue-chip prospect has come into camp eager to do all the little things right.

"He's working really hard," Vogler said. "He asks me questions if he has any problems or wants to know how to do things. He's one of those guys that comes into work everyday with a really good work ethic and tries to learn."

Crimson Countdown: Harrison Jones 

July, 23, 2013
During the summer, TideNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Alabama roster -- excluding the Tide's 2013 recruiting class -- in our Crimson Countdown series. Starting with No. 1 Dee Hart, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 99 Brandon Ivory.

No. 82 Harrison Jones
Redshirt junior tight end/H-back

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Alabama instant impact recruits 

June, 25, 2013
In this week’s top 10 list, we look at which 2014 recruits have the best chance to make an early impact for Alabama. It’s a combination of UA commitments and realistic targets for the Crimson Tide. They’re ranked in order of likelihood to make the biggest impact in 2014.

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Editor's note: TideNation will use this week to look at the four major positions on the football field and how their outlook has changed post-spring practice. Today we examine the threats in the passing game:

Who's leading?

AJ McCarron is a happy man these days, and not just because he gets to drive the pace car at Talladega. The senior quarterback is smiling, in part, because of the number of weapons he'll have to work with this coming season.

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Offseason storylines: Running game 

January, 10, 2013
Editor's note: The season is over and the Alabama Crimson Tide are national champions yet again. But what happens next? TideNation examines the most pressing storylines of the offseason as the Tide gear up for another title defense.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Who would have thought that after losing Trent Richardson the Alabama running game would become more dynamic in 2012? For that matter, who would have thought that when Mark Ingram left two years ago the production on the ground would actually improve? Losing back-to-back Heisman Trophy-caliber tailbacks has done nothing to slow down the Crimson Tide. Alabama has instead improved its number of rushing yards, yards per carry and rushing touchdowns in each of the last three seasons despite watching some of the best running backs in the country move on to the NFL.

[+] EnlargeT.J. Yeldon
AP Photo/Romeo GuzmanT.J. Yeldon thrived as a freshman in Alabama coach Nick Saban's established two-back system.
"There’s a standard," UA running back Eddie Lacy said. "They left a high standard here. So coming into this season I didn’t want to shoot straight for their standard, I just decided that I would play the game that I know how to play and whatever the outcome may be, let it be what it is. It ended up pretty good and I’m pretty much up there with those guys."

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Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday between now and national signing day, TideNation will review each position and look at who figures to start, who could rise up the depth chart and who might be on the way. Today we’ll look at the tight ends and H-backs.

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Introducing the class: Walker Jones 

January, 7, 2013
Editor's note: This is a series introducing Alabama's 2013 recruiting class that will run through signing day.

When Walker Jones committed to the University of Alabama, it came as no surprise to most fans. After all, his two older brothers -- Barrett and Harrison -- both play for the Crimson Tide. However, Walker went through the recruiting process with an open mind and looked at all the interested suitors before giving his commitment to Alabama over the summer. Now he’s set to continue the Jones’ legacy at the Capstone.

Q: What made you commit to Alabama?

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Tracking the Tide: Michael Williams

December, 20, 2012
Editor’s note: Each day between now and Alabama's date with Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, we will review the season for a key Crimson Tide player or coach and attempt to project what’s next for him. Today we’ll look at tight end Michael Williams.

No. 89 Michael Williams
Tight end
21 receptions, 166 yards, 3 touchdowns

Role in 2012: Williams was the Crimson Tide's best and arguably only reliable option at tight end this season.

The good: The redshirt senior didn't jump off the screen, but he was consistent. As he has been his entire career since moving to offense, Williams was an above-average blocker with just enough skill in space to be a threat in the passing game. He was fourth on the team with 21 receptions for 166 yards and three touchdowns. But his worth is also measured in Alabama's success running the football. Both Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon were able to rush for 1,000 yards this season thanks in no small part to Williams' efforts.

The bad: Williams never developed into the receiving threat some might have hoped for when he transitioned from defensive end to tight end. Despite having the frame (6-foot-6, 269 pounds) and athleticism (coach Nick Saban touted his skills on the basketball court) that can cause matchup problems with both linebackers and defensive backs, Williams didn't become a weapon in the way of a poor man's Tony Gonzalez or Jason Witten.

Crystal ball: Because of his skill in the running game, Williams should find a home in the NFL. He's arguably one of the best blocking tight ends in all of college football, which is something scouts and general managers value when looking for backups. As far as the question of who will step up next year, the answer is wide open. Neither sophomores Harrison Jones or Brian Vogler have separated themselves this season. Redshirt freshman Malcolm Faciane has played and has a frame (6-foot-5, 259 pounds) to grow into. Another option might be moving wide receiver Marvin Shinn inside to tight end. The 6-foot-3 redshirt freshman would have to put on weight, but he already has played some snaps at the position early in the season. Keep an eye on two Alabama commitments to make an impact right away: O.J. Howard is the No. 2 tight end prospect in the country and Josh McNeil isn't far behind at No. 4 in the ESPN 150.
An analysis of three key plays in Alabama's 49-0 win over Western Carolina on Saturday at home -- and what those plays mean moving forward for the Crimson Tide:

Hitting the ground running

Dave Martin/Associated Press

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No 2013 recruit knows the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry, or the Third Saturday in October, better than Crimson Tide linebacker commitment Walker Jones.

His father, Rex, attended the University of Alabama where he played played basketball. Both of his brothers, Barrett and Harrison, currently play football for the Tide. Barrett, the eldest of the trio, will be playing in his fourth and final rivalry game against the Volunteers.

Walker hasn’t been on the sidelines for a game yet, but he’s been in the stands for every UT game from even before his brothers started playing.

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Alabama's depth chart revealed

August, 28, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The picture of the Crimson Tide, circa 2012, is coming into full view. On Tuesday afternoon, Alabama released its depth chart.

There were a couple surprises on the list, including Jalston Fowler and T.J. Yeldon sharing duties as the No. 2 tailback and Ed Stinson winning the second defensive end spot. True freshmen Denzel Devall and Geno Smith also won coveted backup roles at Jack and cornerback, respectively.

AJ McCarron, Jr.
Phillip Ely, RS Fr.

Running back
Eddie Lacy, Jr.
Jalston Folwer, Jr. -- OR -- T.J. Yeldon Fr.
Dee Hart, RS Fr.

Tight end/H
Michael Williams, RS Sr.
Brian Vogler, Soph.

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Jalston FowlerMarvin Gentry/US PresswireAlabama's Jalston Fowler might make an impact at H-Back in 2012.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- At the close of last season, running back Jalston Fowler could have reasonably expected to take more snaps on offense when he returned to the University of Alabama for his junior year. Trent Richardson was off for a career in the NFL and the No. 3 tailback on the depth chart was poised to rise to No. 2 behind Eddie Lacy, the presumed starter.

As it turns out, Fowler might take more snaps this season, just not at his usual position.

The 6-foot-1, 242-pound wrecking ball is changing one spot in the I-formation for another. Instead of dotting the "I", Fowler has been practicing leading the charge from the H-Back position. There's been no indication that he'll give up his running back duties altogether, but as tight end Michael Williams put it, he's too skilled to keep off the field when Lacy or another back is in the game.

"He's big. He's strong. He has good blocking skills. He can catch out of the backfield," Williams said. "He's somebody that can play running back also, but when he's not in there, as good as he is you don't want him coming off the field, so he helps us at H-Back."

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Practice report: Aug. 3 

August, 3, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- After roughly three months of waiting, the Crimson Tide were back on the practice field for the start of preseason camp on Friday morning. Veterans took the field in the morning and the younger players at night.

As previously reported, Duron Carter is no longer with the team. He is not in the official media guide but the university has not released an official statement yet.

Now that we have that small bit of housekeeping out of the way, here are a few observations from the morning practice:

  • Eddie Lacy looked to be back to his normal self, making all the cuts after offseason surgery kept him out of spring practice. The presumptive starter at running back didn't look hindered by a foot problem that bothered him throughout last season.
  • D.J. Fluker is in much better shape than he was toward the end of last season and during spring practice. He looks to have trimmed his waistline significantly, shedding some much-needed pounds. That will help him both in athleticism, going up against speed-rushers, and also in the injury department, alleviating some of the wear and tear caused by extra pounds.

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