Alabama football in search of third and fourth wide receivers

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Alabama was one of just four schools to produce multiple 1,100-yard receivers in 2019, joining LSU, Hawaii and Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are the lone school on that list to lose both, meaning Alabama has both a void to fill and something to build upon in its receiving corps.

Devonta Smith returns for a senior season after finishing 11th in the nation with 1,256 yards and tied for fifth in the nation with 14 receiving touchdowns. Losing the other 1,100-yard receiver (Jerry Jeudy) and Henry Ruggs III leaves UA far from assured of its contributors on the perimeter.

Players: Senior Devonta Smith, junior Jaylen Waddle, sophomore John Metchie III, redshirt sophomore Slade Bolden, redshirt sophomore Xavier Williams, freshman Javon Baker, freshman Thaiu Jones-Bell, freshman Traeshon Holden.

South Carolina defensive back R.J. Roderick (10) makes a tackle on Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) during Alabama's 47-23 victory over South Carolina in Columbia Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

2019 stat: Alabama was second in the nation last year in pass plays of 20 yards or more (79) and tied for fourth in pass plays of 30 yards or more (36) and 40 yards or more (20).

Storyline: Smith and Waddle are the proven commodities, and some combination of the others will be the third and fourth receivers. What remains to be seen is how much opportunity there is for the players that earn the third and fourth receiver spots.

UA struggled to create enough opportunities last year when it had four All-American caliber wide receivers, despite passing 51.6 percent of the time against SEC teams: Waddle only had 33 receptions compared to 77 from Jeudy, 68 from Smith and 40 from Ruggs.

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has laid out a vision for UA being more dedicated to the run attack this season, and if it comes to fruition, it’s likely to mean fewer opportunities for fewer proven players at the position.

Last year’s numbers were also boosted by UA having little receiving threat from tight ends, with the position contributing a combined 21 receptions. Alabama returns the players responsible for 20 of those 21 catches and added grad transfer Carl Tucker from North Carolina, theoretically giving UA more proven options at tight end than it will have in its third and fourth receivers.

Only twice in the last six years has Alabama had three wide receivers on the same team catch at least 40 passes. Those two seasons happen to be the two most recent seasons, undermining the trend, but unless UA finds a breakout receiver in preseason practice, the trend could return once again.