EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth installment in a nine-part series looking ahead to the start of Alabama football’s fall practice. Today we break down the receiver position:
Jerry Jeudy and Devonte Smith return as sophomores at a position lacking in seasoned upperclassmen. Jeudy is actually Alabama’s leading returning receiver in terms of production after averaging one catch per game for an average of nearly 19 yards as a deep threat, with two touchdown receptions. His 264 receiving yards were second among wideouts to Calvin Ridley, now an Atlanta Falcon. No one has forgotten Smith’s overtime touchdown catch against Georgia to win the national championship game; he finished with seven receptions for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Xavian Marks has contributed mostly on special teams and is built more like a slot receiver, but has made some impact in the passing game. Tyrell Shavers is an intriguing prospect at 6-foot-6 who sat out last season as a redshirt. True freshman Xavier Williams and redshirt freshman Chadarius Townsend have a chance to work their way into the rotation.
Henry Ruggs III caught a team-best six touchdown passes last season as a freshman, with fully half of his 12 catches going for scores. He averaged 19.1 yards per catch and is a nightmare matchup with both speed and quickness. Derek Keif is a 6-4 redshirt senior who has played mostly on special teams. Keep an eye on Jaylen Waddle, a freshman who was rated No. 5 at the position as a prospect, and Slade Bolden, an all-purpose signee who played quarterback as a prep senior.
Alabama has produced a succession of stars at the wideout position: from Julio Jones to Amari Cooper to Calvin Ridley. The question is whether there’s another star of that magnitude in the making, or if this year’s receiving corps will be more of a committee effort with no single dominant pass-catcher. The sophomore trio of Jeudy, Smith and Ruggs all seem poised for breakout years, but others will have to step up to produce depth at this position grouping.