Which Alabama receivers are next up after Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart?
With Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart coming off outstanding 2015 seasons, the top of the Alabama receiver depth chart is already settled.
Head coach Nick Saban said he is pleased with the depth the team has at the position this season. He would like to see at least six receivers see the field on a regular basis this season, especially when the team opts to run the no-huddle offense.
Who will be the key receivers slotted just behind Ridley and Stewart? Two prime candidates stand out: Robert Foster and graduate transfer Gehrig Dieter. While speaking with the media earlier this month, Saban said, “We have three or four guys that have really played a lot of football here and played pretty well and been productive.” He went on to mention the wide receiving group has young talent and a “very productive” transfer.
Right away, the six receivers Saban is envisioning could be: Ridley, Stewart, Foster, Dieter, Cam Sims and Raheem Falkins. Trevon Diggs and Derek Kief are at the top among the young talent.
The aforementioned six are vastly more experienced. Ridley was the top receiver last season, collecting 89 receptions for 1,045 yards and 7 touchdowns. Dieter might have been right up there if you look at his stats at Bowling Green last season. While the competition wasn’t as stiff and he played in a more pass-happy offense, his 94 receptions for 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns is still impressive.
Given the way Saban has talked about Dieter and the way the returning wide receivers have talked about Foster, it seems likely the third and fourth options will be Foster and Dieter.
Sims and Falkins have outstanding size with Sims standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 203 pounds while Falkins is 6-foot-4, 200 pounds. Additionally, both players, while they haven’t seen a lot of action in games, have paid time during years of practice.
Sims is entering his junior season and Falkins is officially a redshirt junior after receiving a medical redshirt. Back when Falkins first began his career, then-quarterback AJ McCarron singled him out for his play, but Falkins has been plagued by injuries since that time.
Sims worked his way into the rotation last season. While he didn’t receive as much playing time as Foster had previously earned, Sims was in a similar role: a secondary option at outside wide receiver. Sims finished the season with 6 receptions for 46 yards.
Foster was essentially the fourth option last season behind Stewart, Ridley and Richard Mullaney. In just three games last season, Foster had 10 receptions for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns, good for sixth on the team in terms of total receiving yardage. He should return as the third or fourth option after sitting out the last 12 games with a torn rotator cuff last season.
Foster and Ridley were splitting reps at outside receiver opposite Stewart when Foster was injured against Ole Miss. It was then that Ridley stepped up to become Alabama’s most dangerous receiver.
Meanwhile, Dieter has been on record as saying he hopes he earns a similar role on this season’s team that Mullaney had with the 2015 team. Mullaney often lined up out of the slot and finished the season with 38 receptions for 390 yards. He became a red-zone target with reliable hands, catching five touchdowns. Dieter even has similar size to Mullaney with both players standing 6-foot-3. Dieter has a little more bulk as he is listed at 207 pounds on the official roster.
In addition to Foster and Dieter’s experience factor, which is a big one for a less-seasoned starting quarterback, both players have impressed throughout fall practices. Ridley, Stewart and Foster have developed a reputation for challenging Alabama’s defensive backs by continuously running deep routes. Foster’s speed is second only to Ridley.
Dieter is one of only two Alabama receivers to earn a spot on the preseason Biletnikoff Award watch list, the award given to the nation’s best receiver, with the other being Ridley. Tennessee standout cornerback Cameron Sutton called Dieter a “complete receiver,” having played him last season. Dieter racked up 7 catches for 133 yards and a TD in that contest.
In the end, while Falkins and Sims should work their way into the wide receiver rotation, the third and fourth options will likely be Foster and Dieter.