This is the third of a seven-part series looking ahead to the start of Alabama’s spring football practice. We continue with a breakdown of the wide receiver and tight ends.
Alabama lost its highest profile wide receiver in the offseason with junior Calvin Ridley opting to head into the NFL. But the team also goes forward without Cam Sims and Robert Foster, leaving the unit relatively inexperienced. However, the cupboard is not bare. A trio of freshmen made their mark in 2017 and will look to make the next step this season. Irv Smith Jr. showed he’s capable of playing a valuable role for the tight ends too.
The season ended with a 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith, but in that national championship game, Henry Ruggs III caught a touchdown pass and Jerry Jeudy made a key catch in the fourth quarter. Those three freshmen will be sophomores in 2018 and they’re a talented group. Tyrell Shavers redshirted last season and will be a freshman this year and Chadarius Townsend is listed on the roster as a wide receiver. An early enrollee member of the 2018 class, Slade Bolden, is also listed as a wide receiver. But it will be Jeudy, Smith and Ruggs III that will be expected to lead the group. Combined the trio caught 33 passes for 649 yards and 11 touchdowns. It is expected that those three will comprise the starers this spring.
Smith Jr., proved his worth lsat season with the versatility to hold up in pass blocking while also being a receiving threat. Miller Forristall returns after a knee injury derailed his 2017 season and Hale Hentges is back for his senior season. Major Tennison, a sophomore, has the look of a classic in-line tight end. Smith Jr. led the group last season with 14 receptions and three receiving touchdowns.
There’s a lot of receiving talent, be it with the wide receivers and tight ends — but it’s not what anyone would describe as a seasoned unit. Three true sophomores will lead the wide receivers and three tight ends are sophomores with Smith Jr. being a junior and Hentges the lone senior. The receiving targets vary in skill sets and physical attributes. Alabama has big targets like Shavers and slot receivers too.