Despite an impressive amount of talent and high expectations, last year’s wide receiver unit underperformed a little. You can argue that was a product of a freshman QB or the since-departed offensive coordinator or whatever you choose, but the fact is that they didn’t live up to expectations.
Starters ArDarius Stewart and Gehrig Dieter both left for the NFL, but the group as a whole returns an incredible amount of talent. Combine that with QB Jalen Hurts entering into year 2 and a new offensive coordinator, and many are predictably excited about what this group might achieve.
#3-Calvin Ridley (6’1” 190) Junior
After setting records at Alabama as a true freshman with 1,045 yards and 7 touchdowns, Ridley was heralded as the next future 1st round draft pick. In his follow-up campaign, his numbers dipped a bit, picking up 769 yards with 7 more touchdowns.
The speedy deep threat made his mark down the field during his freshman year, but was featured more in the screen/sweep game in his second year, showing off his YAC ability.
This year, he will be looking to develop his intermediate routes and possession game. He’s versatile enough to play on the outside or in the slot and should be the number one target all year.
#1- Robert Foster (6’2”/194) R. Senior
It seems like we’ve been waiting forever for Foster to finally break out. After some talk that the former 5-star recruit might transfer back to his hometown in Pennsylvania, he stuck it out and ended up winning a starting role in 2015, and looked to be the top target on the team when he caught 10 balls for 116 yards and three touchdowns in the first couple of games. Then a nasty collarbone injury against Ole Miss put him on the injured list for the rest of the season, and he never managed to work his way back into the rotation last year.
As a redshirt senior, he now finally looks like he’ll be back on the field as the #2 target behind Ridley. He’s one of the fastest players on the team, and has been recording running a 40-yard dash in as fast as 4.34 seconds.
If Jalen Hurts really has made improvements on his deep throws over the offseason, then Foster, with his speed and length, should be his top target down the field.
#17-Cam Sims (6’5” 214) Senior
Sims has been one of the primary back ups over the last three years, and has gained playing time in real-game situations frequently, especially on running plays where the offense can take advantage of his blocking skills. Injuries have plagued him for much of his career, keeping him from becoming a regular contributor, but he has been totally healthy for a full season and offseason now, so he is expected to step into the starting role as slot receiver.
Sims has caught 20 passes for 198 yards over the last two years.
At 6’5”, he’s a towering possession receiver with deceptive quickness that has been used in the screen game frequently, as both a blocker and a runner. He excels in the short-to-intermediate game where he can use his size to box out defensive backs for catches in traffic.
#81-Derek Kief (6’4”/204) R. Junior
At 6’4”, you’d expect Kief to be a prototypical outside receiver built to fight press coverage and win balls down the sideline. Instead, the junior has spent most of his time at slot receiver, and has drawn comments from Tide defensive backs in the past that he’s one of the craftiest route-runners on the team.
Though expected to be the primary slot back-up behind Cam Sims, Kief won’t be far behind if Sims falters or is injured.
#19- Xavian Marks (5’8”/174) Junior
Originally recruited to be kick return man, Marks has slowly worked his way into becoming a contributor at receiver too. He bulked up about 15 pounds this offseason, and led the receiver group in pretty much every strength test, while being behind only Foster in speed. He’s an athletic specimen, to be sure, if a bit on the diminutive side.
Marks has a climb ahead of him to overcome his size disadvantages and become a productive college receiver, but as of this spring, he looked to be solidly entrenched in the second grouping of the rotation.
#4-Jerry Jeudy (6’1”187) Freshman
The former five star recruit drew national attention during the A-day game this spring when he scored multiple touchdowns with nearly 150 yards, beating defensive backs deep and making touch catches.
Despite only being a true freshman, he’s likely to start out as the #4 receiver, and will be pushing hard to make it into the top three, like Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley both did in their freshman years. Expect to see a lot of the freshman phenom this year.
#6-Devonta Smith (6’1” 165) Freshman
Hailing from Louisiana, the true freshman is an electric playmaker that excels at making the crazy, leaping catches and combines that with speed and quickness that will make him a nightmare for defensive backs.
That said, 165 is extremely light, and I expect he’ll take a redshirt this year to add some muscle mass to his frame.
#11-Henry Ruggs III (6’0” 175) Freshman
We won’t know until the next round of testing next spring, but Ruggs is likely to be the fastest receiver on the team after Robert Foster graduates. The track star is known for his blazing speed and ability to make plays after the catch. He did most of his damage in high school on screens, sweeps, and as a running back, rather than as a downfield receiver. Think Percy Harvin, but 18 years old.
#14-Tyrell Shavers (6’6” 209) Freshman
The tallest receiver on the team, the freshman passed up a professional baseball paycheck in order to come play for the Alabama football team. Not only is he tall with exceptionally long arms, he also reportedly can run under a 4.40 forty yard dash. Just imagine throwing fades down the sideline to that.
The unit returns a lot of veteran talent in Ridley, Foster, and Sims, with Kief and Marks closing out the experienced group. All five players are at least a junior.
Meanwhile, the depth is filled out by four promising freshmen. Jeudy made a statement to the world this spring that he would not be sitting idly this year with a redshirt, but Shavers was injured at the time while Ruggs and Smith were not yet on the team. It’s likely that 2 or even all three of those end up taking a redshirt this year with so much talent older depth ahead of them.
Who will be the team’s second leading receiver behind Ridley?
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