"I'm fortunate in that I really feel like I have good athletes at my position," Pope continued. "We may not have the pure speed that you'd really like to have to be able to separate and get deep, but we've got enough quality football players to be successful with."
Generally considered the top receiver in the state when he signed with Alabama in 2000, Fulgham needed some time to mature in the Tide offense. "Dre didn't grasp our system last year as fast as we would have liked," Pope explained. "But now he understands the offense. We look for good things out of Dre. He's made a lot of improvement."
Always known as one of the best all-around athletes on the squad, Fulgham has matured into an impressive combination of speed and power. "He has to be one of the strongest receivers in the SEC," Pope said. "He bench presses more than 400 pounds, and you don't find that many receivers that strong. He holds two weight-lifting records (the incline and flat bench press), and he'll increase those before he's done.
"He's running good routes now, and for his size he ran well when we timed the 40-yard dash this spring. He's improved his speed and obviously his strength."
Playing mainly on special teams, Fulgham caught only one pass as a true freshman. Last season his role increased, though the change didn't show up in the stats. Dre participated in eight games as a sophomore, catching two passes for 42 yards.
But coming off of an excellent spring, Fulgham has earned the trust of his coaches. "I have to have confidence in my players, but also the coaches around me do too," Pope explained. "When we sit down and talk about players, it's not just one guy's opinion. But now this staff feels good about Dre Fulgham. If you ask anybody about him, they'll give you positive things."
"Dre has a point that he wants to prove," Pope continued, "that he's a very good football player. He made that statement this spring in the way that he went through his 15 days. He showed more confidence, so I feel good about him."
Though he played in the shadow of older stars like Freddie Milons and Jason McAddley his first two seasons at Alabama, Triandos Luke has excellent potential at wideout. "Triandos is one of those guys that just finds a way to make plays," Pope related. "Last year when he was put in a position to make a play--even if the pass didn't come straight to him--he'd get a tipped ball. He was always around the football."
Luke saw action in every game last season, totaling 237 snaps. He had 15 receptions for 152 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned three kickoffs for 60 yards. A broken hand kept Luke out of the lineup for the first four games of his freshman year. During that first season Luke caught two passes for six yards.
"Tri is a quality player," Pope said. "From our first year to this spring with him he's gotten better. The key to any good player is knowing what's going on out on the field. The best player is the guy that lines up and understands what he sees and what he needs to react to.
"Tri understands those things."
Now beginning his third season at The Capstone, his coaches have told Luke that it's time for him to step up. Pope explained, "We've talked to him about having a great summer. He's got to prepare well. The guys that are going to be exceptional players in what they do--they spend the extra time in the weight room and watching film to get it done."
If asked to list Bama's best returning receivers, most Tide fans could have named Carter, Collins, Fulgham and Luke. But Pope adds another athlete to the group.
"Those are four guys we expect a lot out of," Pope acknowledged. "But the other guy that really came on as a steady player this spring is Brandon Greer.
"I don't know if he was a surprise, but he's come on."
Catching passes from current Tide quarterback Brodie Croyle for most of his high school career, Greer's prep total of 30 touchdown receptions broke Ozzie Newsome's former record of 23. But since arriving at Alabama he has labored in relative obscurity.
However, Pope believes that dynamic is about to change. "Brandon is a very sharp kid," Pope related. "I'm fortunate in having several of those. He's astute. He understands what's going on."
Greer saw only spot duty in 2000 as a true freshman, totaling just 34 snaps. Last season as a sophomore he played in four games but did not catch a pass.
Credited by his position coach with helping the younger players learn the Tide offense, Greer is looking for a breakout season in 2002. "He is one of the guys that can play more than one position for us," Pope said. "To me that's a lot. He understands the game very well. I think he'll add something to the program this year."