The Alabama Crimson Tide saw their 2013 season end in massive disappointment, losing their regular season finale to the Auburn Tigers in spectacular fashion before getting knocked in the mouth by the Oklahoma Sooners in the AllState Sugar Bowl. Nick Saban isn’t likely to take that disappointment lightly and will be looking to light a fire under his team in 2014. Can tight end O.J. Howard provide the spark the Tide need to get rolling this fall?
As a true freshman in 2013, Howard was woefully underutilized in the Alabama offense. Despite the mismatch he posed for defenses with his size at 6-foot-6, 237 pounds, and his speed, Howard finished the year with just 14 catches for 269 yards and two touchdowns. His 19.21 yards per catch were tops on the team last season but he recorded zero catches in five games. He should earn him a few more looks in 2014 to complement Biletnikoff Award candidate Amari Cooper on the outside and open the middle of the field to the Alabama passing attack.
Furthering Howard’s cause to be a featured part of the passing attack this season is the addition of a new offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, and a new quarterback following the graduation of AJ McCarron. Kiffin has a reputation of featuring his best playmakers in his offenses and new quarterbacks, likely to be transfer Jacob Coker, tend to lean on their reliable tight ends when things get hairy. That adds up to a a fantastic opportunity for Howard to shine this season.
Alabama’s reputation as a run-heavy, defensively stout football program isn’t going to change anytime soon. But for the Tide to get back on top of the college football world this season, they need to add a bit of a spark to their offense. Will O.J. Howard be the man to provide it?