Tide Seeks More Wide Receivers

Discussion of Alabama's 2011 football team almost always begins with which players will NOT be on that team, notably the five men who were taken in the National Football League draft.

Former Alabama players who were key contributors over the past two or three seasons, when Alabama won 36 games including a 2009 national championship, are Heisman Trophy winning tailback Mark Ingram, quarterback Greg McElroy, top defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, offensive left tackle James Carpenter, and record-breaking wide receiver Julio Jones.

Last year Jones had 78 receptions (six per game) for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns. That is more than the next two 2010 receivers combined – Marquis Maze with 38 catches for 557 yards and three touchdowns and Darius Hanks with 32 receptions for 456 yards and three TDs.

This spring, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban discussed the search for wide receivers for the upcoming season during spring practice. He said it would be "a real key for us because this is an area where we need to develop some players – some depth and a quality starter or two."

Although Bama's "normal" offensive line-up is usually listed with two wide receivers (a wide receiver and a flanker), the offensie frequently includes a third wide receiver at slot, and can utilize four wides. Players and coaches say that receivers learn all of the positions.

Wide receivers are working under a new assistant coach, Mike Groh having replaced Curt Cignetti, who took the head job at Indiana of Pennsylvania.

Upcoming seniors Maze, 5-10, 180 with 22 previous starts, and Hanks, 6-0, 185 with 20 previous starts (including all 13 games last year), should be considered at the top of the class. Thus, the search is for others who will be in the mix.

Wide receiver, though, is considered one of those positions where a player with natural ability can work into the rotation (or even a starting job) more quickly than is the case at many positions. It is, however, a position in Bama's offense that insists on the ability to be an effective blocker, and not all young wide receivers have experience in that area.

During spring practice there was much talk about two redshirt freshmen and one upcoming sophomore. DeAndrew White, 6-0, 181, and Keiwone Malone, 5-11, 165, have the speed and hands. Kenny Bell, a 6-1, 175-pound sophomore, had limited experience as a redshirt freshman in 2010, but was one of the spring standouts statistically.

Brandon Gibson has had been A-Day Game performances the past two years, including snaring five passes for 53 yards in this year's exhibition. Gibson, 6-2, 194, is a senior.

Sophomores Kevin Norwood (6-2, 193) and Michael Bowman (6-4, 225) both have limited experience. Norwood was redshirted in 2009. Bowman played in a few games in 2009 and was held out last season.

One wide receiver signee joined the Tide during spring practice, Ronald Carswell, a 6-0, 170-pound grayshirt. Incoming signees have plenty of speed, including Bradley Sylve, 5-10, 178 of Port Sulphur, Louisiana; Marvin Shinn, 6-4, 195 of Prichard; and Danny Woodson, 6-2, 198 of Mobile.

Also expected to be in competition in fall camp is Duron Carter, a 6-4, 210-pound junior college transfer who is known in great part because he is the son of former pro great Cris Carter. Duron began his career at Ohio State and was a starter in 2009. He spent last year at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. This spring he announced that he had elected to enter Alabama for the 2011 season.

This is one in a series in which we look at various positions for the upcoming Alabama football season.

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