Midseason Grade: A/A+
Final Grade: A+
I don’t know that I could add anything to the midseason grade that would not be gilding the lily.
Ignore the gaudy statistics (and they are plentiful), there is not a better route-running team in the nation. There is god-given talent on the field, sure. But even Damascus steel had to be honed to be turn into legendary weapons. If there’s an underrated coach on this staff, it’s Holmon Wiggins...and I give him a shout-out about once a game on the Twitter machine for good reason.
At the season’s halfway mark, I docked the Tide just a smidge for some drops — John Metchie was the biggest offender here, dropping five passes on the season — as well as some general lack of explosiveness after Jaylen Waddle went down. However, while Slade Bolden was just fifth on the team in YPA and 4th in total receptions, he only registered two drops on the years, and chipped in with 24 catches and a memorable touchdown: His first of the year made it count, scoring in the CFP National Title game.
But, the reason I upgraded the Tide overall to an A-plus was a factor of three things.
First, ‘Bama’s scary-good balance. Fifteen players caught passes, half of those guys reached the endzone, four players averaged near or above 16 YPA, and seven players had 250+ yards on the season.
Second, the emergence of Jahleel Billingsley down the stretch made the best wide receiving corps in the nation absolutely unfair. JB had 14 of his 18 catches after the bye, taking a lot of pressure off of Bolden in the slot, creating more mismatches, and opening up the middle of the field in ways that the gritty Miller Forristall simply has never been able to do. For the year, Billingsley had 287 yards receiving and 3 scores, with 65% of those yards coming after the break. And in the final six games he caught at least two passes in every game — except in the Tide’s rout of Arkansas. He especially came up big in big games: His three scores were against LSU, Auburn, and Notre Dame.
The final reason this unit gets such high marks, is that as the season progressed, the offense was centered more on Najee Harris — and the Tide’s blocking on the edge was outstanding, even if guys like Bolden and Smitty aren’t the most physically impressive specimens on earth.
Watching this group was a pure delight down the stretch, especially two moments — one of which changed the complexion of a championship game. Fitting that Metchie and Smitty were the ones that keyed this play, considering that they were the ones who served notice against Georgia that absolutely no one could touch these guys.
The second moment, one far more emotional than meaningful, came in the CFP Title romp against the Buckeyes, as Jaylen Waddle hobbled out there on a partially-healed leg and registered a catch, contributing to a national title team that he had helped make so dangerous,
Not the most meaningful catch on the scoreboard, no. But a lifetime memory that was well-earned by Jaylen and I’m glad he got the moment to cherish forever.
Your turn. Chime in below and take our poll. How do you evaluate the 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiving corps?
Final Grade: Wide Receivers
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Lower — I’m a Shaun Wade / Derek Stingley Jr. troll.