TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s receiver group gained a big boost this spring, as redshirt junior Robert Foster returned to the field after missing the majority of last season because of shoulder surgery.
Foster, who was lost during the Ole Miss game, showcased his five-star talent before his injury, catching 10 passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns in three games.
Foster has participated in both of Alabama’s spring practice workouts. He’s wearing a black, non-contact jersey, but hasn’t been limited during the media’s viewing periods of practice. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Foster is doing a “really good job” working his way back into the mix.
“We put him in a black shirt because he’s coming off an injury, but he’s done everything that everybody else is doing — running all the routes, learning,” Saban said Monday. “He’s playing with a lot more confidence and has got a better knowledge of the position.”
Foster, who wore No. 8 last season, changed to No. 1 following the departure of Chris Black (transferred to Missouri).
On paper, Foster, Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart give Alabama one of the most explosive receiver groups during the Saban era. A former five-star prospect out of Pennsylvania, talent and ability have never been an issue for Foster. Early on in his career, Saban harped on how he wanted Foster to do the little things like blocking and improve his route running. He also had to sit behind guys like Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White during his first two seasons.
But it’s the time off while rehabbing his injury that Saban believes will help Foster’s development the most. Saban said players “can learn when you don’t play” because it forces them to pay closer attention to the game. Saban told a story about his days as a high school athlete to drive the point home. Saban said he had a “chipped bone” in his ankle from playing football, and had to wear a cast for six weeks before he could begin playing basketball during his senior year.
“We went right from football to basketball so I had to sit and watch them practicing and running above the basket,” Saban said. “I could never shoot very well. I was always a point guard –handling the ball, running the fastbreak, did all that — but I couldn’t shoot very well and I used to sit up in the top of the armory above the basket and see how big the basket was, looking above instead of below. So I developed a lot of confidence in my ability to shoot the ball by watching the ball get shot, seeing how big the basket was because it always looked pretty small to me when I was down on the court. So I became a much better shooter in my time off by sort of absorbing that.”
Saban continued, “And I think in Robert Foster’s case, he learned a lot last year when he wasn’t playing in terms of what he needed to do to play winning football, and he’s played with a lot more confidence these two practices in terms of knowing what to do and how to do it.”
Tide tight end O.J. Howard said Foster hasn’t lost a step since his return.
“When I get a chance to see him run routes, he looks normal to me,” Howard said. “I don’t think his injury is bothering him at all, from what I can see. He knows the plays, so he’s looking smooth to me.”