By Tyler Waldrep
Special to Tidesports.com
Former Tanner quarterback Chadarius Townsend didn’t step foot on the University of Alabama campus at the beginning of the semester with dreams of replacing or even following in the footsteps of Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts.
The early enrollee threw for 1,245 yards and 13 touchdowns during his senior season. He carried the ball for an additional 1,481 yards and 22 scores, but none of that matters now.
“Every off time I got, like at my high school, I just kept running routes from a second-string quarterback,” Townsend said. “He’d throw to me a little bit, and I feel that I was really fit for it.”
Fit or not, Alabama could use some depth at the receiver position. The departures of tight end O.J. Howard and receivers ArDarius Stewart and Gehrig Dieter leave the Crimson Tide with just one player with more than 14 receptions in the 2016 campaign (Calvin Ridley with 72).
As a whole, the Crimson Tide’s passing offense finished with 265 completions, 3,154 yards and 26 touchdowns. Together the departing trio accounted for almost half of that (114 receptions, 1,673 yards and 15 touchdowns), but it’s one of Hurts’ favorite target, Stewart, that Townsend is drawing early comparisons to.
As a former quarterback himself, Stewart threw the ball twice as a junior, including once in the national championship game against Clemson in January. He completed both for 36 total yards.
“I would love to look forward to that,” Townsend said. “I mean it’s really what I’m used to I guess, just throwing the ball and running, scrambling out a lot of times. So I could do that (if asked).”
But Townsend isn’t focused on hypothetical trick packages just yet. He is just one of five new freshmen hoping to earn a spot in the receiving corps.
“I need to work on my route running a lot, because I haven’t been playing receiver at all, but I know my speed can probably help me out with that so I need to work on my quickness really,” Townsend said.
That speed could also come in handy on the defensive side of the ball. Townsend said the coaching staff is going to try him out as a receiver first per his request, but he could wind up in the secondary before the year is out.
“If I’m going for the DB side I’m going to try to work with Minkah (Fitzpatrick),” Townsend said. “And for the offensive side, really work with the other early enrollees. They’ve been doing it for (awhile), that would be Tyrell (Shavers) and Jerry Jeudy.”
Regardless of which side of the ball Townsend ends up on, he also dreams of seeing time on Alabama’s special teams unit as a returner. Considering starting punt returner Eddie Jackson is moving on to the NFL and his backup Trevon Diggs seemed to struggle late in the season, that dream might become a reality.
“I would love to return the ball a lot,” he said. “That was like my favorite thing in football really returning.”