The Tuscaloosa News will review the Alabama roster by examining each position group entering spring practice. The Crimson Tide held its first spring practice on Friday, March 8 and will resume after the university’s spring break ends on Monday, March 18.
Starters returning: Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle
Departed: Hale Hentges, Xavian Marks, Derek Kief, Irv Smith Jr.
Others returning: Slade Bolden, Miller Forristall, Kedrick James, Michael Parker, Tyrell Shavers, Major Tennison, Chadarius Townsend, Xavier Williams
Newcomers: John Metchie (early enrollee), Cameron Latu (position change)
Confidence level: 8/10
Starting point: The wide receiver position may be the most well-stocked group anywhere on the roster. Any of Alabama’s top four players likely would be the top receiving threat for most other major college football teams. They combined for 3,593 yards and 38 touchdowns last season.
Jeudy is the returning winner of the Fred Biletnikoff Trophy as the nation’s best wide receiver. He and Ruggs could both move into the top 10 list of Alabama’s all-time leading receivers by catches and yards this fall, and Smith won’t be far behind. Waddle is a year younger than the trio of sophomores, but had better production as a freshman than any of them. This should be a deadly group in 2019 and possibly beyond. New wide receivers coach Holmon Wiggins landed in a good spot.
To be determined: Tight end might be the least settled position group on the roster. Hale Hentges and Irv Smith Jr. filled different roles for Alabama in 2018 but both were important parts of the roster, and both have moved on. The confidence level for the wide receivers alone might be a 10/10, but the tight ends might be closer to 5/10.
Miller Forristall once appeared to be on equal footing with Irv Smith Jr. at tight end, but an ACL injury in 2017 set him back. Another year to recover and the prospect of more playing time might mean he’s due for a big season. The other tight ends will also have chances, particularly if they’re capable enough blockers to fill Hentges’ job.
One thing to keep an eye on will be whether Alabama’s personnel groupings shift to reflect the strengths of the roster. The Crimson Tide has four excellent receivers, and it may be that there are more packages with all four on the field at one time. That could limit opportunities for some tight ends, particularly if only one player can emerge there as a reliable contributor. It could also be the case that the offense continues to feature one or two tight ends, but their skills mean their responsibilities won’t line up exactly with what Smith and Hentges did in 2018.