SEC Country is breaking down each Alabama position group from Feb. 29 to March 7 as the Crimson Tide prepare for spring football.
Wednesday’s breakdown features Alabama’s 2016 receiving corps.
Notable departures: Richard Mullaney, Chris Black, Michael Nysewander (tight end)
You should already know: Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart, Robert Foster, O.J. Howard (tight end), Brandon Greene (tight end/offensive lineman)
Get to know: Hale Hentges (tight end), Dakota Ball (tight end) Cam Sims, Daylon Charlot,
Analysis: If you said there’s a better receiving corps out there than the one in Tuscaloosa, we wouldn’t believe you. Ridley appears to be the next great Alabama wideout, following Julio Jones and Amari Cooper on a path toward presumed NFL stardom.
His 2015 numbers — 89 catches for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns — paced the Crimson Tide’s talented group of receiving options, and several highlight-reel catches had fans across the country buzzing.
Former cornerback Cyrus Jones compared Ridley to Cooper at the NFL Scouting Combine last week.
“It’s real close,” he said. “I think they’ve got the same-type skill set. His freshman year was awesome, just like Coop’s was. He still has room to grow, so the sky’s the limit for him.”
Joining Ridley will be Stewart (63 receptions for 700 yards and four scores) who emerged as a reliable big-catch receiver as the season went on. Then there’s Foster, who was the Tide’s No. 1 receiver before going down with a season-ending rotator cuff injury against Ole Miss.
If you’re counting at home, that’s three wideouts who would be the go-to guy for most programs this season. Add in national championship game star O.J. Howard (38 receptions for 602 yards and two touchdowns) and defensive coordinators will need to refill their sleeping-pill prescriptions this autumn.
Beyond that quartet, there’s plenty of unproven talent. Greene is a hefty blocking tight end who doesn’t do much in the passing game. Hentges and Ball have been relegating to blocking duties, too. It will be tough to replace Nyeswander, who was a key figure in the running game and on special teams.
The group of green wideouts — Sims and Charlot among them — will be doing a lot of watching from the sideline if the top three guys stay healthy this year.
Key question: Will the gameplan feature more passes in Howard’s direction? The Crimson Tide have been well aware of his talent for three years, but have yet to truly unleash him on a consistent basis.
Bottom line: Four outstanding options make the Tide’s receiving corps nearly unstoppable.