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April 4, 2013

Vogler, 'new guys' eager to show off skills

TUSCALOOSA | Brian Vogler has spent years watching Michael Williams dominating as a blocking tight end for the University of Alabama football team. Before that, he watched Brad Smelley become a weapon as an H-back.

Now Vogler wants to find the middle ground, and play there.

"I have been working at the X and the Y," Vogler said earlier this week, using the Crimson Tide's technical nomenclature for the positions, adding he was "a little more at the Y (H-back) this spring."

For most of the past two seasons, Alabama has relied heavily on Williams as a blocker in its dominating ground game, to the point that UA head coach Nick Saban has said that the loss of the former Pickens County High star has been underestimated in gauging the 2013 team.

"I think when players really have a specific role, but they don't have big individual statistics, they tend to get overlooked," Saban said. "I think there is a place for Michael at the next (NFL) level and we will definitely miss him here."

Vogler, a junior from Columbus, Ga., listed at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, echoes Saban's sentiments on his predecessor.

"The thing about Mike was he was consistent, he was very reliable and that's something all of us want to prove to the coaches, (that) we're consistent, we're reliable, we can do the things that Mike did," Vogler said. "Honestly, we're trying not to say too much about Mike so we can work toward these new guys in the future and see what all we can do collaborating our skill sets."

When he speaks about "the new guys," himself included, Vogler quickly grows enthusiastic. For instance, he says freshman O.J. Howard brings "a whole new dimension to this offense."

"He's very long, very athletic, very fast," Vogler said. "He's learning very fast and he takes teaching, which I think really says a lot about his character as a player. He's making progress and I think he'll be a viable offense to our offense.

"Malcolm Faciane is a workhorse. The kid comes in every day with a positive attitude, ready to get to work. He, just like O.J., is learning really fast. Obviously the past year he hasn't gotten as many opportunities getting reps with the ones and the twos. Now, with the spring he's getting those opportunities and I think it's boosting his confidence out there, and that's a big thing to have the confidence to know you can go out there and play with these guys. So, that experience of him working with us has really paid off."

The tight ends aren't just blockers, though. They are also part of what might be the deepest Alabama receiver targets ever.

"We didn't lose anyone from last year, which is good," Vogler said. "(We have) a lot of experience and the guys coming up, it's like, 'Where did we get these guys? Are they from this country?' They're great.

"DeAndrew (White) is looking great. It's unbelievable how fast he came back from that knee surgery. I mean, he was running during the season. He looks like the DeAndrew from last year at the beginning of the season. I was watching film yesterday looking at Kenny Bell running down the field at full sprint. I said, 'That's the kid before he got hurt.' To see these guys come back is awesome."

Vogler said he is excited to see the full complement of tight ends and receivers when Alabama scrimmages for the first time on Saturday.



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