Texas football upgrades TE room, adds Bama transfer Amari Niblack

Amari Niblack
Amari Niblack / Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Texas football continues to reap the rewards from the mass exodus from the Alabama Crimson Tide via the NCAA Transfer Portal early this offseason. Texas and head coach Steve Sarkisian added their third portal commitment among former Alabama players on Jan. 18 with sophomore tight end Amari Niblack.

Niblack joins sophomore standout wide receiver Isaiah Bond and junior linebacker Kendrick Blackshire among the transfers the Longhorns have landed from Alabama since the retirement of longtime legendary head coach Nick Saban.

Niblack announced his commitment to Texas in the portal on social media on the night of Jan. 18. He committed to Texas amid his multi-day visit to Austin, which began on the afternoon of Jan. 18.

Texas football adds NFL-caliber tight end in Alabama transfer Amari Niblack

He is also the seventh transfer commitment for Sarkisian and the Longhorns staff in this portal cycle. Niblack is part of this massive reload via the portal for Sarkisian in the receiving corps in 2024. Texas has added three immediate impact transfer wideouts early this offseason, including the aforementioned Bond.

Niblack and Bond now join the former Oregon State Beavers redshirt junior slot receiver Silas Bolden and Houston Cougars sophomore wide receiver Matthew Golden among the impact portal additions to reload this receiving corps entering the SEC this year.

Niblack allows Texas to open up the offense

Niblack broke onto the scene as one of the top receiving tight ends in the SEC during his sophomore campaign in 2023. He registered a career-high 21 catches for 327 receiving yards and four touchdowns last season.

In Niblack, Sarkisian gets another versatile weapon to open up the playbook through the air and even on the ground with the addition of Niblack at tight end. Texas can utilize multiple different plays/formations with two tight end sets on offense while still having the versatility to motion Niblack out to line up as a true wideout threat in the receiving game.

Niblack gives the Longhorns a viable replacement for All-Big 12 junior Ja'Tavion Sanders (headed for the NFL Draft this spring) as the top receiving tight end threat.

Last season at Alabama, Niblack lined up outside or in the slot on over half of his pass play snaps, whereas the rest he lined up as an in-line tight end. Since Sanders was primarily the tight end that Sarkisian lined up out wide or in the slot (roughly 37 percent of his pass play snaps the last two seasons), Niblack can fill that role.

One aspect of Niblack's addition to the offense that is very promising is his blocking ability. Niblack is actually an upgrade as a blocking tight end compared to Sanders. He was a higher graded pass blocker than Sanders last season. And Niblack blew just one block in 125 blocking snaps on offense compared to nine blown blocks on just over 400 blocking snaps for Sanders.

Between Niblack and rising senior Gunnar Helm, Texas will have two reliable blocking tight ends to utilize on offense who can also threaten defenses in different ways running routes.

Texas adds a serious downfield threat in Niblack

The 6-foot-4 and 235-pound Niblack presents that mismatch against opposing safeties and linebackers in coverage that Sarkisian could attack in the passing game with Sanders at tight end. He's another weapon that will make life easier next season for rising redshirt junior quarterback Quinn Ewers.

Niblack has that big frame and large catch radius that is natural for Ewers to connect with in the passing game, similar to the chemistry he had with Sanders and wide receiver Adonai Mitchell last season.

Ewers has an easy-to-find downfield playmaker in Niblack to make his life easier against SEC defenses week in and week out this upcoming season.

Niblack's ability to stretch the field can't be overstated. His athleticism and bigger frame made him a matchup nightmare down the seams and on longer developing intermediate and deep route concepts for Alabama in the passing game last season.

Texas saw what he can do as a downfield threat in the passing game when he scored on a 39-yard deep ball touchdown from quarterback Jalen Milroe.

He's got the straight-line speed and acceleration to get open running deep routes down the seams. You can also spin him out to the outside at receiver where he can utilize his bigger frame, verticality, and strong hands to high point the football and bring down tough contested catches.

Something often overlooked with Niblack's game is how reliable of a target he is. Not only does he threaten opposing defenses with his speed and athleticism running downfield, but he also rarely if ever drops a catchable target.

Niblack was one of just a handful of SEC tight ends last season to have one or fewer drops while being targeted over 30 times.

Development is key for the younger tight ends at Texas

Lastly, something that the addition of Niblack allows TE coach Jeff Banks and the Longhorns more patience to develop all the young tight ends in this position group. He has two years of eligibility remaining, but it remains to be seen if he will utilize both or enter the NFL Draft next spring if he has a good season at Texas this coming fall.

Banks and the Longhorns can develop this tight end room, including rising redshirt freshman Will Randle, sophomore Spencer Shannon, and incoming true freshman Jordan Washington, into the mould he's looking for. That mould includes tight ends in more specific roles of blockers and receiving tight ends.

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