Nick Saban has hope for Jaheel Billingsley

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Tight-end Jahleel Billingsley (Photo: Stuart McNair, 247Sports)

Jahleel Billingsley, a 6-4, 230-pound tight end from Chicago, had been expected by many to step into the position left by the graduation of Miller Forristall. However, things did not go well from the start in his junior season. No details were given, but Billingsley was apparently in Nick Saban’s dog house … and there is little evidence that he is completely back in the good graces, even though Saban holds out hope.

So far this year, he has 11 catches on 186 yards and two touchdowns and has only played sparingly, though he has seen playing time in all nine games. He had his first reception and first touchdown of the season against Florida (26 yards) and had his first 100-yard receiving game against Southern Miss with a team-high five catch of 105 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown catch.

Billingsley showed great promise as a sophomore as he entered the latter half of the year with 14 of his 18 receptions and 274 of his 287 years in the last seven games of the year. He got his first start against Kentucky when Forristall was out with injury and had three catches on 78 yards. He scored his first touchdown with a 24-yard reception against Auburn and added another TD in the College Football Playoff semifinal against Notre Dame.

Ironically, his first playing time as a freshman came in 2019 against New Mexico State – Alabama’s Saturday opponent at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

At Saban’s Zoom meeting with journalists on Wednesday, he was asked about the team that missed Billingsley’s production.

The coach said: “When a guy has opportunities, he has to take advantage of them. He has to play fast. He can not lose the ball. So we miss his production? Yes, but when he gets the opportunities, he has to take advantage of them. He has to play fast.

“And he’s definitely the guy who can help, we need him to go out there and play as if he’s capable of playing, and it’s definitely our responsibility as coaches to try to get him to do that. that.”

Billingsley was not appointed.

Saban opened the meeting and said: “One of the things that we consistently try to emphasize with our players is the mindset that it takes to be a good training player. And in a way we measure speed and explosive movement every day, regardless of whether it’s in the weight room, on the training ground or whatever, and I think it’s really, really important that it shows the players how their mindset can affect their performance.

“So if you go out there and perform in terms of how you feel, which I would think most footballers at this point of the season are not feeling very well, but you have to have that kind of mental toughness to be able to stay know it, still try yourself to improve. ”

He added: “There is no part of our team that can not improve. I think it should be the focus of everyone on our team.”

Kickoff Saturday is at. 11.00 CST with SEC Network TV.