TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley never felt completely lost at the start of last season. But Ridley, now a rising sophomore, did admit he sometimes needed to be pointed in the right direction on certain plays.
It wasn’t until midway through the season when things clicked for Ridley, a South Florida native.
“I felt confident and I didn’t need so many people telling me what route I had,” Ridley said. “I could just go out there and play by myself.”
Statistically, the Georgia game in Week 5 proved to be Ridley’s coming-out party. Prior to Alabama’s trip to Athens, Ridley had 125 receiving yards.
Ridley torched the Bulldogs for 120 yards and a touchdown on five catches, including a 50-yard bomb from Jake Coker.
Ridley showed his big-play ability last season as 17 of his catches went for 15-plus yards with five of his seven touchdowns coming on plays of 30 yards or more. Ridley led the team with 44 receptions for a first down or scores.
Ridley believes he’s significantly better than he was as a true freshman.
“I just know my route running better, my plays better, my depth on the route, my alignment,” Ridley said. “I just know the right place to be at now.”
An improved knowledge of Alabama’s offensive system and schemes along with his natural talents makes Ridley one of the best receivers in the country.
Ridley was one of the top vote-getters for preseason 1st-team All-SEC. He was named to the Biletnikoff Award and Maxwell Award watchlists. Ridley could become the second player to win the Biletnikoff (best receiver) in school history (Amari Cooper, 2014).
He’s also considered to be among the preseason favorites to win the Heisman Trophy.
But Ridley spent the offseason working on the little things.
“I’m becoming more of a leader, more vocal with everybody,” Ridley said. “Just my blocking game, and I’m just way smarter than last year. I know more than I did when I was a freshman.”
Ridley went over 100 yards four times last season. He set Alabama freshman records with 89 receptions for 1,045 yards to go with seven touchdowns. Ridley’s 89 receptions were an SEC freshman record and the second most in FBS history by a true freshman. Ridley was named to the Sporting News and SEC All-Freshman teams as well as the All-SEC Second Team by the Associated Press.
Teams will pay even more attention to Ridley heading into his sophomore season, but he could be aided by the emergence of other teammates. Tight end O.J. Howard and receivers Robert Foster and ArDarius Stewart should help take some of the pressure off if opponents decide to double team Ridley.
Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin likes to move receivers to different spots to exploit matchups so don’t be surprised if Ridley is all over the field this season.
“Yeah, I’m pretty confident I could do that,” Ridley said of playing other receiver spots. “I could do it a little bit last year, but now I know everything at every spot.”