Calvin Ridley might be the No. 1 receiver for Alabama, but he’s not always the first.
That honor went to Cam Sims on Saturday. The senior receiver caught an 18-yard pass from Jalen Hurts on the first play of Alabama’s 41-10 win against Fresno State. He finished with three catches for 28 yards on the day.
“When you get involved early, you just think every play is coming to you,” Sims said. “So you just have to play faster, keep going.”
It’s early in the season, but Sims is second on the team in receptions and receiving yards. Ridley leads the Crimson Tide in both categories.
Ridley is Alabama’s top target by a wide margin, but Sims is among a bundle of players that has shown the ability to contribute so far. He played as a backup each of his first two seasons before seeing some more playing time as a junior in 2016. Now he’s taken over the slot receiver job vacated by Gehrig Dieter.
That “Y” receiver position on some teams features a smaller, shiftier receiver who can make plays underneath. Sims, at 6-4 and 214 pounds, doesn’t fit that mold. But he does other things that make a difference.
“I guess the defense is kind of used to seeing a smaller receiver on the inside, so they can bully them,” Sims said. “But when they see me, they know I’m a bigger receiver so they know they have to come with it.”
One of the adjustments Sims had to make while playing in the slot was being used to the ball arriving quicker. There’s less distance between the quarterback and receiver at his position. That was especially true on Saturday, when all three of his passes were caught within a few yards of the line of scrimmage. He caught a screen pass and a slant pass on his last two receptions.
The first pass of the game came to him behind the line of scrimmage, and he worked his way up the sideline to gain a first down.
“The things that we did in the short, quick passes are things that complement our running game and complement what we do on offense, and I think it makes our offense more effective when we can do these things,” coach Nick Saban said. “They’re things that hopefully we’ll be able to continue to do successfully in the future.”