Seniors set to lead receiving corps

With Freddie Milons and Jason McAddley lost to the NFL, there is no question that the Tide is looking for players to step up at wide receiver. But counting on his returning seniors, Wide Receivers Coach Kenith Pope isn't pushing any panic buttons. <br><br>"AC Carter and Sam Collins, if we had to line up and play today, those are two guys that I think are ready to play now," Pope said.

Junior college transfer Zach Fletcher, redshirt freshman Brandon Brooks, budding stars Dre Fulgham and Triandos Luke, veteran backups Joel Babb and Lance Taylor--not to mention a possible true freshmen like Ramzee Robinson. Pope acknowledges all the various possibilities at wide receiver available. But long years of experience have taught him to depend primarily on returning veterans to carry the load.

And seniors almost always lead the way.

Shown at practice last season, Carter's specialty has always been his ability to elude tacklers.

Pope begins with Antonio Carter. "He adjusts very well during the play," Pope related. "He's very smart in the fact that he's able to see and adjust to things. That's what makes your football team better."

Carter started nine games for Alabama last season, and was the Tide's second-leading receiver with 32 receptions for 428 yards and one touchdown. His 106 career receptions is tied for fourth on Alabama's all-time list. He finished up as Bama's chief punt returner last season, and this year he's set to return kickoffs as well. "That's his experience that's coming out," Pope said. "Being a year older, there are things that he can do for us this fall returning punts and kickoffs. He becomes a player that can give us a different look.

"Last year some things unfolded for him in special teams that gave us a little edge. I think we can be even better this year."

Carter is a quick athlete with the ability to make the difficult catch. But the best thing about the Florida native is his knack for coming up big in crucial games. "I think you play the game for the fans," Pope explained. "I always tell people we're in the entertainment business. When you walk out that door, we're one of the best shows in town."

"It's like going to a concert," Pope continued. "When you go to a concert and the performer puts on a great show, then you're going to go back again. It's the same thing with my players. They have to go out there with the attitude that they're going to put on a great show."

Seniors Sam Collins (#7) and Antonio Carter (#2) will lead the way at wide receiver.

Sam Collins, Bama's other returning senior starter, is ready for that show. Off-season surgery has solved his shoulder problem, and the veteran wideout posted a 4.42 clocking in the spring 40-yard dash timings. "Sam Collins in my mind is a very, very talented player with a lot of skills," Pope said. "In my opinion, Sam will have a chance to be as good a receiver as anybody in the country.

"I think he has all the things it takes to be that type of player. He's got outstanding speed. He's a guy that plays the game with a lot of intensity and a lot of passion. It's important to him every day."

Collins started two games last season, finishing with 18 receptions for 252 yards. But the Fayette native led the Tide in touchdown receptions with four, and he averaged 14 yards per catch. His longest reception of the year was a 58-yarder versus Ole Miss.

Despite nursing a painful shoulder, Collins had two receptions for 28 yards in Alabama's 14-13 victory over Iowa State in the Independence Bowl. Pope commented, "He's coming off an injury. In fact he played with pain for a lot of last season. But he had off-season surgery and he's worked his way back."

Once again healthy, Collins is primed for a big season.

Playing in the shadow of more highly touted teammates, Collins has been a solid performer for Alabama his first three seasons. But Pope expects his final year to be Collins' best. "He's a very good leader," Pope said. "Really, he wants to be a unique person, and in my mind he's going to be a quality player. I look for a lot of things to happen for Sam. And I'm not putting any pressure on him. I think that's what he expects for himself.

"He expects to go out there and do what it takes for us to be a good team."

Seniors are always looked to for leadership, but Pope is counting on Collins and Carter to set the tone for physical play as well. "When you take that attitude then it can take your unit to a different level," he explained. "I'd like for all my guys to be more physical. With AC and Sam being seniors, I think we're going to get that type leadership quality. The only way to accomplish that is through hard work in the summer and then carrying it over into the fall.

"Sam and AC do a great job of coming out on their own to make themselves better players."


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