Alabama’s record-setting quarterback Blake Sims and wide receiver Amari Cooper. Gone. Tailback T.J. Yeldon. Gone. Two guards, a tackle, a tight end, and fullback. All gone. And in addition to Cooper, the Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation’s best wide receiver and the fourth player taken in the 2015 NFL draft, wide receivers DeAndrew White and Christion Jones. Gone.
More than some positions, wide receiver spots – split end, flanker, and slot – can sometimes be replaced with newcomers. To that end, the Crimson Tide’s February recruiting haul included two of the nation’s best prep wide receivers in Calvin Ridley and Daylon Charlot, not to mention a potential safety or wide receiver in Deionte Thompson.
And then came another addition as Richard Mullaney completed four years at Oregon State, earned his degree, and then took advantage of the NCAA exception that allows a transfer without a sit-out penalty to those who complete graduation requirements with eligibility remaining.
Mullaney is a 6-3, 208-pound native of Thousand Oaks, Calif., who has made an impression in the early going after his transfer from Corvallis to Tuscaloosa last summer. Mullaney has battled on even terms with Chris Black at the slot receiver position, joining Rob Foster, Ardarius Stewart, and Ridley in giving the Tide an effective receiver corps.
Mullaney has been targeted three times and has made all three catches for 45 yards. He was also given a crack at punt return man in last week’s win over Middle Tennessee State and made a 16-yard runback.
At Oregon State, Mullaney played for former Alabama player Mike Riley. “I loved playing for him,” Mullaney said. “Mr. Riley’s been nothing but great to me. He’s definitely one of my mentors.”
Mullaney wasn’t the only one departing Oregon State. Riley was something of a surprise transfer, too, leaving his head coaching job with the Beavers to take the post for the Nebraska Cornhusters.
At Oregon State, Mullaney also talked to Luke Del Rio, who had walked on at Alabama as a quarterback and then transferred to Oregon State without ever playing for the Tide. Mullaney said he talked to Del Rio a lot about Bama. “I talked to him, actually, all the time,” Mullaney said. “I got his input, and he had all great things to say about it. That excited me."
Mullaney said that his move to Alabama has been good for the food, particularly barbecue, and for playing with “all four- and five-star guys, the best of the best. It has been fun every day competing with them. There are no days off. Every single day has just been a grind.”
Speaking of which, arriving in Tuscaloosa in the summer – his first time in the Deep South – “It was hard getting used to the humidity, but everything else was good.”
Before making the move to Bama, Mullaney said he talked to Alabama Coach Nick Saban about the opportunity. Saban told Mullaney “about how young the receivers were. Very talented, but young.” The coach said that Mullaney could “use my maturity and my leadership as a positive.
“Obviously just having me grow in this program and getting to know the guys, it's been great. Just being able to prove myself and show them that I can play has been really fun."
Mullaney was a split end in Oregon State’s pro-style offense, the starter in 2013 and returning starter in 2014, when he suffered a season-ending elbow injury. In 2013 he had 52 receptions for 788 yards. In 2014 because of the injury he had only 18 catches for 216 yards.
He said his role at Alabama has been similar to what he had been doing. “It has been a smooth transition.
“The first two games have been fun. The atmosphere, the fans, everything has been awesome. Getting out here with these teammates has been really fun.”