Fortunately for Alabama, Coach Nick Saban and his staff never rest on recruiting and the loss of starters is not the same as the loss of players. Obviously, if a player was starting last year, the man expected to replace him this year was not good enough to beat out the first team man in 2014. That does not mean, however, that the second teamer of last season won’t be an SEC caliber player in his next year.
One of those positions – three positions, actually – where Bama was hit hard by graduation was at the wide receiver spots – Amari Cooper (expected to be the first wide receiver taken in the upcoming NFL draft), flanker DeAndrew White, and slot Christion Jones. It would not be a surprise to see all three drafted.
Led by Cooper’s 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns, the trio were the top three targets and accounted for 183 of Bama’s 290 catches, 2,495 of the Tide’s 3,890 receiving yards, and 21 of the 32 touchdown receptions.
That doesn’t include the loss of 35 receptions for 437 yards and 4 touchdowns by others who are not returning.
That’s a deficit of over 75 per cent of receptions (75.4), yards (75.2), and TDs (78.1).
One of Bama’s top returning receivers, sophomore Cam Sims (7 catches for 62 yards and a touchdown last season), was injured in the spring and his participation this fall is questionable.
The three first team receivers in Alabama’s spring game were sophomore Ardarius Stewart (12-149 in 2014), who had 8 A-Day receptions for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns in the A-Day Game; soph Robert Foster (6-44 as a freshman) with 6 catches for 125 yards; and junior Chris Black (15-188 last year) with 2 catches for 13 yards last Saturday.
The performances of Stewart and Foster could be said to be the highlights of the A-Day Game.
There are others in camp who have been impressive according to Saban and to other Tide players, notably junior Raheem Falkins, redshirt freshman Derrick Kief, and former walk-on senior Parker Barrineau. True freshman Deionte Thompson moved from the secondary to wide receiver midway through spring practice.
There is no reason to believe that whoever wins the quarterback job will have no qualms about throwing to any of these men.
And that may not be all. In personal confession time, an example is an Alabama outlook I penned prior to the 1974 season. It would be impossible, I wrote, for the Tide wishbone offense to replace All-America wide receiver Wayne Wheeler, who had turned in 19 receptions for 530 yards and 3 touchdowns for the 1973 national champions.
How was I to know how good incoming freshman Ozzie Newsome would be?