|TideSports College Football Preview|
Position coach: Mike Locksley (first season)
Returning starter: Calvin Ridley
Starter lost: ArDarius Stewart, Gehrig Dieter
Robert Foster looked like a rising star in 2015 before a shoulder injury ended his season in the third game. He was a non-factor last season even though he was healthy, and has one more chance to produce. Cam Sims is a big (6-5/214) target who played well in spots last year, and has received compliments for his blocking. Derek Kief also has good size and has been waiting for a chance to break into the receiving rotation.
Newcomer to watch
There are four true freshman receivers from the 2017 class. Jerry Jeudy turned heads with five catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game and looks like a good bet to see the field this season. Montgomery native Henry Ruggs III could also have a chance to contribute. Alabama also landed DeVonta Smith, the No. 1 player in Louisiana and Tyrell Shavers, a 6-6 Texan.
You need to know
Calvin Ridley’s receiving yards dipped from 1,045 yards as a freshman to 769 yards as a sophomore, like Julio Jones (924 yards as a freshman, 596 as a sophomore) and Amari Cooper (1,000 yards, then 736) before him. But Ridley still has 1,814 career receiving yards in his first two seasons, more than either Jones or Cooper. Both Jones and Cooper posted their best numbers as juniors. Ridley will turn 23 in December, which could play a factor in whether he chooses to enter the NFL draft at the end of this season.
ArDarius Stewart set the tone for the group last year, handling a sledgehammer on the sideline and leading the team in receiving yards. Calvin Ridley is one of the country’s best playmakers on the outside but will need some help. Counting Trevon Diggs, who is now playing defense full time, Alabama lost three of its top five wide receivers from last season. That means Alabama will be counting on some freshmen for quality depth, and maybe even more than that. All eyes will be watching to see if Jalen Hurts can connect with the receivers downfield this year. The talent appears to be in place.
Calvin Ridley needs 68 receptions to break Amari Cooper’s record of 228 career catches. He surpassed that number each of the last two seasons and has a strong chance of doing it this year. It would likely take another year for him to challenge Cooper’s career record of 3,463 yards; Ridley has 1,814.
“The sledgehammer means savage mentality. Even if we don’t have the sledgehammer, we still have (that mentality) in the locker room.”