Analyzing Alabama's talented group of wide receivers
Alabama lost a few key weapons in the passing game, but with three former 5-star prospects ready to lead the way, the sky is the limit for this position group. Here’s an in-depth look at the Tide’s wide receivers heading into the second week of fall camp.
ArDarius Stewart: Stewart won’t be easy to replace. In 2016, he led the team in receiving yardage (864) and receiving touchdowns (8). He finished his career with 1,713 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns on 129 receptions before being drafted by the New York Jets in the third round. The Birmingham native was the Swiss army knife for the offense, and as a result, his toughness and leadership will certainly be missed.
Gehrig Dieter: Dieter’s impact didn’t always show up on the stat sheet, but he was a reliable chain mover who did his best work in the slot. In his lone season at the Capstone, the Bowling Green transfer brought in 15 passes for 214 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Kansas City Chief, and has been making a solid impression in training camp so far.
Calvin Ridley: Ridley has been Alabama’s best receiver since he stepped on campus before the 2015 season. He likely will leave campus as the program’s most productive receiver.
In two years in Tuscaloosa, the former 5-star receiver has 161 receptions for 1,814 yards and 14 touchdowns. At 6-1, 190 pounds, Ridley isn’t the biggest receiver, but he’s a savvy route runner, and he does and excellent job creating separation. The upcoming junior is expected to be one of the first receivers taken in the 2018 NFL Draft — if he decides to declare early.
Robert Foster: At one time, Foster was supposed to be the next Julio Jones. Like Ridley, he was also a 5-star prospect who was the No. 2 WR in the 2013 recruiting class according to 247Sports. Now heading into his fifth year on campus, Foster has only managed to bring in 21 catches for 215 yards and 2 touchdowns.
His struggles have mostly been due to injuries, however — he’s only managed to play in 22 of a possible 44 games. Still, Foster turned heads in the spring game with two catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. He should be Alabama’s best deep threat.
Jerry Jeudy: Whether it was Julio Jones, Amari Cooper or Calvin Ridley, the Crimson Tide has a history of getting immediate production from young, high-profile receivers. Jeudy, a former 5-star, will be no different. Jeudy was 247Sports’ No. 3 ranked receiver in this year’s recruiting class, and he’s poised to make a significant impact as a true freshman. He’s only listed at 6-1, 184 pounds, but he does everything extremely well — advanced route runner, excellent catch radius, the ability to adjust his body and reliable hands.
Cam Sims: Sims is another guy who hasn’t quite lived up to the hype that made him a top 100 prospect coming out of Monroe, La., in 2014. In his three years in Tuscaloosa, Sims has 27 catches for 260 yards and one touchdown. However, he’s expected to put up his best statistical season as the team’s projected No. 4 receiver. At 6-5, 214 pounds, Sims is the second biggest receiver on the roster — behind freshman Tyrell Shavers.
Derek Kief: Heading into his redshirt sophomore season, Kief had one catch for -3 yards in his career. He didn’t add to those numbers last season — four catches for 31 yards. He also didn’t record any statistics during the team’s annual A-Day game in April. At this point, Kief is simply depth, but he does have the size (6-4, 204 pounds) and pedigree (4-star prospect) if called upon.
Xavian Marks: Marks’ biggest impact is going to come as a return specialist — 228 return yards and one touchdown in 2016. He’s seen snaps at running back and receiver, giving the former 3-star prospect the label as a gadget player. Marks hauled in three catches for 52 yards in the spring game.
Devonta Smith, Henry Ruggs III and Tyrell Shavers: Judy’s potential impact has already been covered, but the Tide also hauled in an impressive group of receivers in this year’s recruiting class. All three of these players were in the top 12 at their position with Smith checking in at No. 9, Ruggs III at No. 11 and Shavers at No. 12. Shavers brings more size (6-6, 209 pounds) to the position while Smith (6-1, 165) and Ruggs III (6-0, 175) bring speed, quickness and game-changing ability. Don’t expect to hear much out them this season — as long as others stay healthy — but the unit will be in strong hands for years to come.