Two of a kind: Calvin Ridley and Christian Kirk
When it comes to Calvin Ridley and Christian Kirk, it’s OK to drink the Kool-Aid. They bursted onto the scene a lot like how the big red pitcher would do in those commercials.
Ridley and Kirk posted 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2015. When was the last time the SEC had two true freshman receivers with 1,000 yards in the same season?
In fact, how many other times do you think a true freshman has even hit that mark in the history of SEC football? The same number you’ll see on Ridley’s and Kirk’s jerseys: 3.
That means a total of five out of the 70 players on current SEC schools who have gone for 1,000 receiving yards in a single season were true freshmen, and two of them came just last year.
SEC TRUE FRESHMEN WITH 1,000 REC YDS IN SINGLE SEASON
|SEASON||PLAYER, SCHOOL||RECEIVING YARDS|
|2015||Calvin Ridley, ALA||1,045|
|2015||Christian Kirk, TAMU||1,009|
|2012||Amari Cooper, ALA||1,000|
|2001||Kelley Washington, TEN||1,010|
|1999||Ronney Daniels, AUB||1,068|
A couple of the players listed, Tennessee’s Kelley Washington and Auburn’s Ronney Daniels, spent time trying to make it in professional baseball before attending their respective SEC schools. Washington was a 22-year-old freshman with the Vols, while Daniels was 23 before suiting up for the Tigers.
Only an additional handful of the redshirt variety (like Mike Evans in 2012, Jabar Gaffney in 2000) were even able to hit 1,000.
If you remember, A.J. Green and Julio Jones were part of the same freshman class in 2008, but Green (963) and Jones (924) each fell just short of the mark.
Needless to say, fans in Tuscaloosa and College Station are excited about what the next two years hold for their studs.
Ridley, the No. 1 WR in the Class of 2015 based on 247Sports’ composite rankings, stepped up in big games for Alabama. After going for 90 yards in the Iron Bowl, he caught 8 passes for 102 yards in the SEC Championship Game against Florida. Then, he caught 8 more for 138 yards and 2 touchdowns (including a 50-yarder) in the College Football Playoff semifinal against Michigan State.
While Ridley did play in 15 games, he only needed 14 to hit the mark, same as Amari Cooper in 2012.
Meanwhile, Kirk, the No. 4 WR in the Class of 2015, grabbed everyone’s attention in the first half of the season. He racked up 609 receiving yards and 2 punt return TDs through six games, and he had 90 receiving yards to go with a 68-yard punt return TD in the last game of that stretch against Ridley’s Crimson Tide.
Although his production shrank over the last seven games, he capped the campaign with a season-high 10 catches for 84 yards and a TD in the Music City Bowl against Louisville.
This season, Ridley and Kirk will be looking to do what none of the other three true freshmen were able to do, which is follow up their 1,000-yard season by meeting the high expectations in Year 2.
SEC TRUE SOPHOMORES FOLLOWING 1,000-YARD SEASON
|SEASON||PLAYER, SCHOOL||RECEIVING YARDS|
|2016||Calvin Ridley, ALA||?|
|2016||Christian Kirk, TAMU||?|
|2013||Amari Cooper, ALA||736|
|2002||Kelley Washington, TEN||443|
|2000||Ronney Daniels, AUB||378|
Cooper was slowed by foot and toe injuries as a sophomore, but he combined for 15 catches, 299 yards and a TD over the final two games of that season against Auburn and Oklahoma. The score was a 99-yarder and was the Tide’s final points of the Kick Six defeat at the hands of the Tigers.
Washington seemed well on his way to duplicating his 1,000-yard effort despite missing the first two games of the season with a knee sprain. He recorded 100-yard efforts in the first three games upon his return, including 197 against Rutgers, but his bid for 1,000 was cut short by a serious neck injury that limited him to four games.
Daniels missed three games in 2000 with a bad ankle later in the season, but he wasn’t able to get on track before that. Though he managed to play in 10 games, Daniels didn’t enjoy a single 100-yard performance. His season-high came in Week 1 against Wyoming, it was 66 yards, and that came off his only reception of the day. Incredibly, Daniels’ 378 receiving yards led Auburn that season.
As the previous three instances have shown, injuries can derail any season, but so can the challenge of having to adjust to a new quarterback. That’s something Ridley and Kirk will face in 2016.
Trevor Knight has already been named Texas A&M’s starter, but the QB battle at Alabama will continue into the fall.
Still, it says a lot that Ridley was able to be that productive alongside other reliable options. The Tide had two other pass-catchers with at least 600 receiving yards, ArDarius Stewart (700) and O.J. Howard (609). And, of course, it also had the SEC’s first 2,000-yard rusher in Heisman-winner Derrick Henry.
The same can be said for Kirk. He was joined by fellow wideouts Josh Reynolds (907 yards) and Ricky Seals-Jones (560). The Aggies were also depending on Tra Carson, who ran for 1,165 yards.
What Ridley and Kirk have in common there is that those aforementioned running backs are gone, but those receiving threats are back.
Still, regardless of who returns for their respective teams, chances are there will be enough balls to go around for talent that doesn’t come around that often, and Ridley and Kirk certainly fit that description.