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2019 Alabama Crimson Tide Spring Football Unit Previews: Wide Receivers

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Alabama has a couple receivers who are pretty okay.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Talented. Stacked. Deep.

Those are just three adjectives to describe Alabama’s wide receiver corps. It’s probably the best in the country. It has experienced, elite starters and blue-chip back-ups waiting in the wings.

Like the majority of units for the Crimson Tide, the wide receivers have a new coach. Josh Gattis left after one season to be the offensive coordinator for the Great Khaki Pants up north, and Nick Saban has brought in Holmon Wiggins to replace him.

Wiggins spent the last seven seasons with Justin Fuente (four at Memphis, the last three at Virginia Tech). He’s regarded as a good recruiter, having brought in several blue-chip players for the Hokies.

Departed

Derek Kief

Kief was a 4 star prospect out of Cincinnati, Ohio in the Class of 2014 (Cam Sims was also in this class). He redshirted his first year and never was able to crack the rotation his remaining four years. Kief appeared in 14 total games, catching 11 passes for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Xavian Marks

The diminutive speedster mainly provided depth at wide receiver during his career. He only recorded catch in his four years. Where he really had a presence was at punt returner. In 2016 and 2017, he had 16 returns for 187 yards and 1 touchdown.

Returning Starters

Jerry Jeudy - junior

Jeudy impressed as a true freshman in 2017 before exploding onto the scene last season. You may have heard he won the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the best college wide receiver, after putting up 68 catches for 1,315 yards (an impressive 19.3 yards/reception) and 14 touchdowns. With Tua Tagovailoa throwing it to him again, Jeudy has a good chance to be the first receiver under Saban to have two 1,000 yard receiving seasons.

Henry Ruggs- junior

On most teams, Ruggs would be the unquestioned #1 receiver. He was a 4 star recruit out of Montgomery, and he was reportedly clocked in the 4.25 range in his 40 yard dash at Alabama’s junior pro day. At Alabama, however, he’s fighting for targets. Ruggs led the team in receptions against ULL and was tied for the most against The Citadel. He finished the season second in receptions (46), one ahead of Jaylen Waddle, and third in receiving yards (741)

DeVonta Smith - junior

The Amite, Louisiana product had a relatively “pedestrian” year in 2018, finishing fifth in receptions and yards and tied for 6th in touchdowns. I used quotes because Smith still had 42 receptions, 693 yards, and 6 touchdowns despite battling a leg injury in the latter half of the year.

Jaylen Waddle - sophomore

Despite not enrolling until the summer and having those three receivers ahead of him, Waddle was too good to keep on the sideline. He contributed right away against Louisville and only got better. Waddle wound up second on the team with 848 receiving yards. He’s also the team’s punt returner, adding 233 yards on 16 returns with 1 touchdown.

Tyrell Shavers - RS sophomore

Shavers is an intriguing player. He’s 6’6, 205lbs and was clocked at 4.38 in the 40 yard dash at The Opening in Houston. He redshirted his first year in 2017. Shavers had an opportunity to showcase his talents last spring when Jerry Jeudy went down with an injury; but, unfortunately, Shavers himself suffered an injury, missing the last two weeks of spring practice, including A-Day.

Chadarius Townsend - RS sophomore

Townsend is another intriguing guy. He’s listed as a wide receiver; but, with only three scholarship running backs on the roster and plenty of depth at wide receiver, Townsend has been practicing at running back this spring. He’s also practiced at safety in the past. We’ll see where he ends up, but he has flashed some talent and was clocked around 4.40 this spring.

Xavier Williams - RS freshman

Williams was one of the beneficiaries of the new redshirt rule. He played once against ULL and still got his redshirt. With Kief and Marks both gone, Williams has an opportunity to crack the back-up rotation.

Newcomer

John Metchie

Metchie was the only receiver Alabama signed in the Class of 2019, and the 6’0, 195lb former 4 star is already on campus. I completely missed this when doing my map of where all of the recruits came from (#norefunds), but Metchie has bounced around. According to his bio, he was born in Taiwan, spent a few years in Ghana, settled in Canada from when he was 6 until he hit high school. For high school, he moved to Maryland and, finally, transferred to The Peddie School in New Jersey. Here’s some of what Brent had to say about Metchie when breaking down the new guys.

He shows a nice ability to adjust to deep balls and can twist around while running without losing body control if the QB throws the ball over the wrong shoulder. He also displays good concentration on low passes and doesn’t mind diving to the ground to scoop a ball up at the last second.

In his route-running, he’s very natural at running curls, comebacks, and quick-outs. He can go from a full speed stem to stopping and turning with almost no warning to the cornerback covering him. He’s also quite obviously been trained at breaking press coverage and shows the ability to swim around a cornerback that is too far to one side, and uses a little jab-step to set the corner up to move to one side or the other.

Depth Chart

X: Henry Ruggs III, Tyrell Shavers

Y: Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, John Metchie

Z: DeVonta Smith, Xavier Williams

I really struggled with this one.

But seriously, Alabama’s top 4 wide receivers from last year all return; and, barring injuries, they’ll be the top 4 options this year. The exact positions don’t really matter as they’ll move around some. I’m also leaving Townsend out of the depth chart for now. If he moves back to wide receiver, he should find plenty of playing time as a back-up.