Wide receiver has been a bit of a wild ride for Alabama fans in recent years. From 2017-2020, the Rydeouts dominated college football, with DeVonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and Jalen Waddle all becoming first round draft picks, plus Smith won the Heisman.
Then in 2021, John Metchie stepped up and Jameson Williams transferred in to become another 1-2 punch of elite-level college production. Unfortunately, post season ACL tears ended both of their seasons, and Alabama lost the national championship on the back of about 8 drops from their backups in one game.
In 2022, the Tide had to start totally fresh with all new starters. And, while the results were a bit of a mixed bag, there was a lot of young talent that got onto the field and flashed who will all be vying for more catches in 2023.
Traeshon Holden - The junior was a bit of an enigma as a taller receiver that tried to play like a small, shifty guy. He also tweeted mysteriously quite often and occasionally drew the ire of fans. He was Bryce Young’s friend and roommate, though, so he had a pretty prominent role in the rotation. However, by the end of the season, his playing time dropped considerably, and he hit the transfer portal.
Tyler Harrell - Harrell transferred in from Louisville as a 4.2 speed guy with very few career catches. He was a high-upside longshot, but he got injured and never really managed to get on the field for Alabama. So he hit the portal as well.
JoJo Earle- Earle showed a lot of promise as a freshman in 2021, but injury derailed him and he didn’t really contribute much in 2022 after getting passed up by a trio of freshmen, and he took his services to TCU.
Aaron Anderson- A preseason injury after a promising summer saw the true freshman not play in his first season. Apparently, homesickness was an issue for him, and he transferred back home to LSU.
Christian Leary- As a veteran player, Leary stuck around for a few years and even got some meaningful snaps as an emergency running back a couple seasons ago. He wasn’t going to get any playing time in his senior year, so he transferred to Georgia Tech.
The Main Two
#7 Ja’Corey Brooks
Brooks had 39 catches for 866 yards and 8 touchdowns last year in his first season as a starter, and he showed significant improvement from his hit-and-miss moments as a freshman. Famously, he’s a player that Nick Saban says “has that dog” in him, and should be looked at as a leader of the offense in his 3rd year.
Brooks is a tall receiver that excels at catching fades down the sidelines, but he also displays a surprising nimbleness with the ball in his hands. If he can put it all together, he can be an elite player.
#3 Jermaine Burton
Burton transferred from Georgia before the 2022 season and, after a disappointingly slow start, he really came on the last 1⁄3 of the season and wound up leading the team with 1 more catch and 3 more yards than Ja’Corey Brooks.
Burton is a balanced receiver with elite route-running skills. With Bryce Young’s propensity to go off script, I think some of Burton’s best talents went underutilized in 2022, and he could be a QB’s favorite target this season.
Returning contributors - The Law Firm Trio*
*seriously, “Bond, Law, and Prentice” has a nice ring to it, huh?
#80 Kobe Prentice
Prentice was a 3-star recruit that blew up right before his senior season due to his performance at Alabama’s camp and his pure speed. He was considered a bit of a raw prospect, but upon arriving on campus, he wound up winning the 3rd starting job for the season opener. He rotated in and out through the season, but was a steady contributor as a true freshman, with 31 catches for 337 yards.
#17 Isaiah Bond
Similar to Prentice, Isaiah Bond was a speedy true freshman who played a lot of ball and had some nice flashes last year, picking up 220 yards. Bond’s an excellent deep threat, and after adding 10 pounds since the season ended, should be more physically able to withstand SEC football.
#19 Kendrick Law
Law was a special teams regular as a freshman last year who didn’t really see the field for most of the season. But then in the last few games, he worked his way into regular playing in important moments and made a few very promising plays.
He’s over 200 pounds and built like a running back or even a small linebacker, and should be a significant threat with the ball in his hands.
#14 Thaiu Jones-Bell
Now a 4th year players, Jones-Bell has been a steady presence on the back end of the depth chart. If he didn’t transfer out after being passed up by a trio of freshmen last season, I think it’s likely he’s content being a backup at Alabama.
#18 Shazz Preston
The 4th freshman in last year’s class, Preston took a redshirt year, but saw a decent bit of playing time in mop-up duty throughout the year. He’s a bigger bodied, possession-style receiver who should be a top backup option.
#24 Emmanuel Henderson
Henderson was a 5-star recruit as a running back who switched to wide receiver going into his freshman year last year. He was a special teams standout all year long, and even caught a pass against Austin Peay.
He’s a bit of a mystery still as a small school athlete who changed positions, but his potential is very, very high.
#11 Malik Benson
The #1 JUCO prospect in the country, Benson brings a level of fanfare and hype rarely seen in JUCO prospects the lasty 7 years or so. He’s a high-energy, high-speed player who is going to challenge for a starting role and is already drawing praises and comments so far this spring.
Don’t be surprised if he’s on the first team for A-Day
#13 Cole Adams
Adams missed his senior year in high school due to injury and was a bit of a forgotten recruit. However, he’s an elite track guy who has supposedly been really standing out in spring practices with his combination of deep speed, route-running, and hands.
#16 Jaren Hamilton
Hamilton is a big-bodied track guy playing receiver. He’s a bit raw as a prospect, but has an extremely high athletic ceiling.
#82 Jalen Hale
A five-star recruit in the 2023 recruiting class, Hale looks to be the future of the position for Alabama. I’ve not heard any rumblings about him from spring practices yet, but expect him to be in the mix.
Way-too-early depth chart
With so much turnover and so many new players with only 3 starting spots, this is going to be a pointless endeavor. However, I’ll take my best stab at predicting the depth chart
WR X: Jermaine Burton
WR Z: Ja’Carey Brooks
WR Slot: Kobe Prentice/Malik Benson
WR X: Isaiah Bond
WR Z: Cole Adams
WR Slot: Kendrick Law