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August 22, 2012

Fowler ready to flourish

TUSCALOOSA | With the opportunity to succeed the likes of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, it would be understandable for any running back to resist the idea of a part-time tight end role.

But Jalston Fowler wants to be on the field as much as possible for the University of Alabama this fall. And the junior from Prichard Vigor doesn't much care what he has to do -- or what position he has to play -- to do so.

Though Fowler is still practicing with the running backs and is in the team's backfield plans, he also has seen some practice time with a host of H-backs vying for playing time in the Crimson Tide's two-tight end formation.

"I like both to tell you the truth," Fowler said of the two roles. " like opening holes for the running backs. ... It's complicated sometimes when I've got to do all this motion and all that other type of stuff, it gets crazy."

Brad Smelley handled Alabama's H-back role last season, and was frequently in pre-snap motion to set himself up for either key blocks for UA's rushing attack, or a favorable coverage matchup for a pass route.

"Jalston has to be able to come out of the backfield and catch the football for us," said quarterback AJ McCarron. "He's going to have to play some different positions he's not used to and to make some blocks. But he's done a good job. He's learned a lot in the spring and fall camp. I'm real confident in him."

Fowler, for his part, said he's got the necessary receiving skills to catch the ball as a running back, or as the H-back, which sometimes runs deeper routes.

"I've got great hands. I just (used to) like to play catch all the time when I was young, so that helped me develop my hands," Fowler said.

At 245 pounds, Fowler is UA's biggest running back.

"It's like tackling a moving train," said cornerback Dee Milliner. "You tense up because you know that contact is coming, and to be ready for it."

Fowler's competition at H-back includes walk-on Kelly Johnson, Harrison Jones and former running back Brent Calloway. At running back, he is contending with Eddie Lacy, Dee Hart, T.J. Yeldon and freshman Kenyan Drake.

UA coach Nick Saban made it clear Tuesday that Fowler remains in the mix at the running back position.

"Jalston Fowler's going to play and run the ball, too, whether he plays H-back or not," Saban said.

Fowler rushed 56 times for 385 yards last season, mostly in fourth-quarter action, for an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.

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