Brad Smelley didn’t have far to go to play college football, but he has come a long way in his three years with Alabama. The former quarterback for American Christian Academy in Tuscaloosa is the Crimson Tide’s starting H-back in his senior season. And though it isn’t a surprise to him, it might be considered unexpected that after three games he is Bama’s second-leading receiver.
In last week’s 41-0 win over North Texas, Smelley had four receptions for 46 yards. For the year he has seven receptions for 72 yards. His seven catches is second (albeit a distant second) to wide receiver Marquis Maze, who has 15 receptions for 186 yards.
Smelley is not surprised. “I would have hoped so,” he said when asked if he would have expected that before the season. “I feel like I can make plays, and A.J. (quarterback A.J. McCarron) and I have good chemistry. I look forward to making more plays in the future.”
That good chemistry doesn’t just happen. Smelley said it’s the result of “working hard in practice every day, being on time. That’s the main thing. Just working on it every day, working some after practice. Just getting better every single day. That develops in practice with the quarterback. Just reps is basically what it is.”
Nine different receivers caught passes against North Texas and 12 different men have receptions this year. “A.J. spreads the ball out well,” Smelley said. “He really goes through his reads, progressions, and finds the open man.”
Smelley didn’t know if the quarterback battle between McCarron and Phillip Sims would be decided by the Arkansas game, and says that maybe it isn’t.
“I didn’t really have any expectations about it,” he said. “We had two guys battling out for the position. Right now it looks like it’s kind of settled. Right now we’re going with A.J. He’s been playing well for us and I hope he continues to play well.”
Following Wednesday’s practice, Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, “The tight ends have done a good job. I think every position on our team can play better, and our expectation is that we will improve.
“But the tight ends have played well.
“Brad has played very well. Practices well every day. Has been a good special teams player for us.”
Smelley said, “We’re looking to come out and practice hard every day. That’s a big thing we harp on in the tight end room. Come out and busting it every day. That’s what we’re going to do every week because the goal is to improve every day for Saturday.”
Saban also pointed to the need for better execution.
Smelley said, “We had some busted plays last week. You’re going to have busted plays every week. But you limit your mistakes so you can be more efficient as an offense.”
Most of the talk this week has been about the Arkansas offense vs. the Alabama defense. That’s because the Razorbacks have one of the nation’s top passing teams and Bama has one of the nation’s best defensive teams.
Both teams are 3-0 as they approach the Southeastern Conference opener at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. Alabama is ranked second in the nation, Arkansas 12th. CBS will televise the game beginning at 2:30 p.m. CDT.
“They have a good offense,” Smelley said, “and we know that we have a good offense, too. It’s going to be a good game. We’re ready to get out there and get after it on the field Saturday.
“We want to come out and score as many points as possible, play well. The main goal is to be efficient, and that’s what we want to do.”
The tight end corps has a new member with former defensive end Brandon Lewis (6-3, 288) moving in to provide extra heft as a blocker in short yardage situations.
“He’s a big guy, the biggest guy in the (tight ends) room now,” said the 6-3, 229-pound Smelley. “He’s a train wreck when he hits somebody in the hole.
“He can catch the ball, and he can run, too. He’s a good athlete. We didn’t recruit him for nothing.”
In his final season, Smelley said he looks forward “to having a good season. Win a lot of games. That’s all we want to do. That’s all I want to do.”