Jahleel Billingsley is a sneaky threat on deep balls for Texas football

Jahleel Billingsley, Texas Football
Jahleel Billingsley, Texas Football /

One of the impactful additions for the Texas football program out of the NCAA Transfer Portal this offseason is the former Alabama Crimson Tide junior tight end Jahleel Billingsley. As one of multiple former Alabama players that joined Texas this offseason by way of the transfer portal, Billingsley is set to make an immediate impact on this offense.

It’s expected that the Longhorns are going to have sophomore Ja’Tavion Sanders and the rising senior Billingsley starting at the tight end spots for this coming season. When Texas lines up in 12 personnel, it’s likely that Sanders and Billingsley are going to be the first two options that head coach Steve Sarkisian and special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Jeff Banks utilize.

Texas fans are hoping that Sark and the Longhorns staff can manage to recapture some of the magic that Alabama found in Billingsley during the 2020 National Championship Run. Since Sark was the OC for the Crimson Tide during Billingsley’s breakout 2020 season, there is reason to believe that this can happen for this senior tight end this fall.

Moreover, what made Billingsley such a threat in the passing game at the tight end position back in 2020 for Alabama was his large catch radius, gifted physical tools, and separation from opposing coverage players. At 6-foot-4 and 230-pounds, and with good open-field speed and leaping ability, Billingsley is a tight end with NFL-caliber tools.

Sark was able to utilize the mismatch at the tight end position that Billingsley was for Alabama by getting him out in the flats, mostly on intermediate and deep routes. In fact, during his time at Alabama, 55.5 percent of Billingsley’s receiving yards came on intermediate routes and 18.8 percent came on deep passing plays.

There wasn’t anything extraordinary that Sark did with Bilingsley a couple of seasons ago that allowed him to get so open and be so effective in the passing game. But Sark did have Billingsley running corner and slant routes that allowed him to get some separation and put his large frame and sizable catch radius at the forefront.

Texas football TE Jahleel Billingsley could be a sneaky threat on deep balls this fall

That was especially the case in the red zone, where Billingsley came up with more than half of his touchdown catches during his time at Alabama.

What is a bit surprising, though, for Billingsley was just how effective he was when deep balls were thrown his way, especially given how few times he was targeted in the passing game on balls going 20+ yards. Billingsley was targeted just seven times on deep balls in the last two seasons at Alabama.

But that resulted in five catches for 105 receiving yards and a whopping four touchdown catches. Billingsley didn’t have a single drop on those seven targets. One of those seven targets was a turnover-worthy play on behalf of the quarterback, which did result in an interception.

Even more impressive is the fact that the adjusted completion percentage on deep targets to Billingsley was a perfect 100. Only five of the deep balls targeted to Bilingsley in the last two seasons at Alabama were catchable.

So, how does all this translate for the Longhorns in 2022?

First off, Billingsley is still likely going to be schemed up by Sark to use his sneaky open-field speed and large catch radius at the tight end position to get open in the flat and present a matchup issue in the red zone. Billingsley should be one of the top options in the passing game for Texas in the red zone this year.

There is also the potential for Texas to utilize Billingsley on intermediate routes more on third down than the Crimson Tide did last season. That was something that Sark emphasized for Billingsley at times during the 2020 campaign in that Alabama offense.

I would expect Sark to try and get Billingsley and/or Sanders open out in the flats or on the outside with some crossing and quick slant routes. Those plays could be especially effective for the Longhorns on third-down plays and in the red zone, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times here already.

All in all, Billingsley should be able to have a season where he gets at least four or five targets per week in the passing game. Although, his limitations as a blocker could put a ceiling on his targets in this offense this fall.

Combine his limitations as a blocker with the fact that Texas has so many skill position weapons in 2022, and it’s hard to see Billingsley becoming one of the top two or three targets in this offense on passing plays.

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Texas should be utilizing Billingsley in situational offensive packages this fall to really maximize his skill set at the tight end position. Billingsley will be a major third-down and red zone threat for Texas that can also do some damage when he’s schemed open on intermediate and deep routes. Don’t sleep on what Billingsley can do on plays in the passing game that go 20+ yards, though.