By Laura Owens
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
HOOVER – The wide receiver group on Alabama’s football team last year dubbed itself “The Assassins”. Then-senior and leader ArDarius Stewart could be seen walking the sidelines carrying an axe or a sledgehammer to emphasize the point.
But with Stewart gone, Calvin Ridley is the head of the receiving corps, and he said last week at SEC Media Days he’ll have to meet with the younger guys to see if they’ll remain assassins or go with a different theme. Whether we’ll be seeing those weapons around the sidelines again is something Ridley wasn’t sure about.
“You might,” he laughed.
And speaking of wide receiver weapons, Ridley’s freshman season certainly proved him to be one for the Alabama offense. His sophomore season numbers, however, dipped from what he racked up as a freshman.
In 2016, he totaled 769 yards, with 10.7 yards per catch and 51.3 yards per game, as compared to 2015, when he totaled 1,045 yards and averaged 11.7 yards per catch and 69.7 yards per game. The number that did stay the same was touchdowns, with seven in each season.
The slight drop in numbers might have had something to do with having a true freshman quarterback in Jalen Hurts. Ridley said the veteran wide receivers had time in the offseason with Hurts, and now they’re additionally working on timing with the younger receivers.
“Any time you have more time with someone, you’re going to get better and get better chemistry,” offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman said of Hurts’ and Ridley’s improved connection.
Ridley himself didn’t list chemistry as his focus going into this season. Instead, he had two other specifications on his mind.
“I just want to get my feet back quicker,” Ridley said. “I definitely want to be a leader on the team.”
Being a leader to Ridley means getting the younger guys to buy into the program, and Bozeman said he’s seen Ridley, along with defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, active in that role.
“They are stepping up bigger in leadership roles,” Bozeman said. “They’re trying to motivate other people and bring along the younger kids.”
While Ridley is settling into a leadership role on the team, he’s maintained his big brother role with Riley Ridley, a sophomore wide receiver at Georgia.
“I caught some games,” Calvin Ridley said of watching Riley play last season. “I’d be in the hotel before our game, and I’d see what he was doing. He did pretty good. I think he could’ve done a lot better.”
Ridley will be eligible for the NFL Draft after this season, and his is among the names already mentioned for the 2018 draft, but he’s not thinking about that quite yet.
“I just want to go into the season and have a good season, and I’ll think about that later,” he said.