EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth installment in a series looking ahead to the start of Alabama football fall practice. Today, we look at the wide receivers.
All of it.
That means the 2018 Bilentnikoff Award winner as the best receiver in college football, junior Jerry Jeudy (68 catches, 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns). It means junior Henry Ruggs III, a speedy deep threat who had 45 catches for 735 yards and 11 touchdowns. It means sophomore sensation Jaylen Waddle, who had one more catch than Ruggs (46) for 848 yards and seven touchdowns. It means junior Devonta Smith (42 catches for 693 yards and six touchdowns), who sometimes gets overlooked in this group even though he caught the winning pass from Tua Tagovailoa in the 2018 national championship game.
Those totals: 201 catches for 3,591 yards (a remarkable 17.9 yards per catch) and 38 touchdowns. That’s speed, talent and depth that has rarely been seen since the Russian Army in 1944. This will very likely be the last time this group will be together — all three juniors have lofty pro potential. Alabama has a long tradition of stellar wide receivers dating back to the great Don Hutson and including Ray Perkins, Ozzie Newsome, David Palmer (when he wasn’t playing some other position) and Saban-era superstars like Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley. But this may be the most talented group in one season in Alabama history.
The Crimson Tide did lose two spot contributors in Derek Kief and Xavian Marks and must replace a productive tight end, Irv Smith Jr. (The tight end position will be covered in a separate preview.)
Because of all the returning talent, Alabama’s recruiters could hardly promise instant playing time to a young receiver. The Crimson Tide did sign one freshman, John Metchie, who plays high school football in New Jersey, where he ended up via Ghana and Canada. He participated in spring drills at UA, had two tremendous catches in the A-Day Game and may have a shot at solid playing time despite the competition. Xavier Williams, who redshirted as a freshman last year, and sophomore Tyrell Shavers, a big target at 6-foot-6, probably belong in this category as well.
If the receiving corps simply equals its 2018 numbers, they will rank among the best groups in college football. Using history as a judge, that seems likely barring an unforeseen rash of injuries at the position (or at the quarterback spot.) Barring that, this unit should be spectacular.