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Alabama football looking to replace top talent at wide receiver position going into 2020

Brett Hudson
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama’s foursome of elite wide receivers accounted for 218 of UA’s 287 receptions (75.9 percent), 3,725 of UA’s 4,449 yards (83.7 percent) and 37 of its 49 touchdowns (75.5 percent) in 2019. The 3,725 yards among the four of them was better than all but 23 teams in FBS.

Among UA’s most challenging tasks this preseason is to replace half of that foursome.

Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III used hyper-productive 2019 seasons to become first-round picks in the NFL Draft, leaving Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle to anchor a receiving corps looking to develop third and fourth options.

The race for those spots got thinner as the offseason progressed, given both Tyrell Shavers and Chadarius Townsend exited the program as transfers to Mississippi State and Texas Tech, respectively.

Orange Bowl: Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Slade Bolden (18) celebrates after defeating the Oklahoma Sooners.

With Shavers gone, UA has three second-string receivers competing for those two spots: John Metchie III, Slade Bolden and Xavier Williams. Bolden saw the field more than the others in 2019, but most of those snaps came as a Wildcat quarterback; Metchie has the upper hand in experience as a wide receiver thanks to replacing Ruggs when he was briefly injured and once appearing in a five-wide receiver package against Ole Miss.

UA also brought three four-star wide receivers to campus in its 2020 recruiting class: Thaiu Jones-Bell, Javon Baker and Traeshon Holden.

However, establishing a wide receiver depth chart does not necessarily establish a third and fourth receiving threat as the tight end position is one of intrigue with Miller Forristall, Major Tennison and Jahleel Billingsley all returning on top of the addition of North Carolina grad transfer Carl Tucker. And even with four elite wide receivers, running back Najee Harris still caught 27 passes for seven touchdowns, a record for UA running backs. It’s plausible that either position group could present itself as a third or fourth receiving option should no wide receivers prove themselves worthy of that treatment in preseason practice.

As it progresses through preseason camp, Alabama will have to discern which wide receivers are Nos. 3 and 4 in its pecking order. But more intriguing is if those wide receivers will hold the same ranking in team receptions, possibly preempted by a more proven tight end or running back.