"We're like a tag-team in wrestling," junior wideout Triandos Luke explained. "We take turns."
In different games this year it's been a different man's turn. Dre Fulgham's 429 yards and three touchdown receptions lead the unit, but with 370 yards senior Sam Collins isn't far behind. Collins' 64-yard reception remains the longest of the year. And in limited action Zach Fletcher has been very good, sporting a startling 35.5 per catch average.
Competition among the receiving corps is both natural and inevitable, but the guys keep things friendly. "I kid around with Dre and Sam a little bit," Luke related, "telling them ‘the next ball is coming my way.' But not too much. We're just taking what the defense gives us."
Often the various receivers on a given squad will play clearly defined roles. One may be the deep threat. Another specializes in possession routes. And another may be the "across the middle" man. But all four of Bama's top wideouts (in terms of statistsics) have the ability to do it all.
"In any game one of us can step up and have a big day," Luke said. "That's a big positive for our team. Any of us can step up on any day. It just depends on the opportunity and having the ball thrown to you. We make it difficult to double-team one guy."
Tide receivers are not the only ones involved in the passing game. Running backs Shaud Williams, Santonio Beard and Ray Hudson and tight ends Clint Johnston and Donald Clarke are also ranked among Bama's top 10 receivers. "Defenses have to respect our whole offense," Luke said. "They have to watch for the ‘As' and the ‘Ws'. They can't just design defenses to stop the wideouts."
Luke started off the year gang busters, catching nine passes for 85 yards in Alabama's season-opening win over MTSU. But his production dropped off significantly after that, as the Phenix City native managed only seven total receptions over the next seven games.
But in Bama's two most recent outings, victories over Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, Luke has 16 receptions for 230 yards and two touchdowns. "There were a couple of games where I wasn't getting much results," he acknowledged. "The key is just staying patient. Every week we scheme on what the defense is going to give us. If they give us something, then we're going to take advantage."
Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione explained what happened. "From the way the games evolved, it might have looked like we were looking for ways to get Triandos the ball. But it wasn't the case. We weren't saying ‘Let's look for ways to get Tree the ball.' He was just getting open. Those were the reads that the quarterback got. That's where the reads took him."
Versus Vanderbilt Luke took advantage of soft coverage to make repeated catches in front of the Commodore cornerbacks. "Their DB was playing so far off that we knew the hitch and the snatch routes were going to be there all day," Luke explained. "I didn't expect to catch that many passes, but their DB just kept playing that far off."
But last week Luke's repertoire expanded, as the junior wideout caught balls all over the field, including the first two touchdown receptions of this season. "It kind of surprised me, too," he admitted. "I wasn't expecting to get that many balls. But I was expecting to get some looks."
"Triandos made a lot of nice runs and a lot of nice plays," Franchione said. "We went back to the same plays two or three times, because the defense continued to give that to us. We always try to stay patient."
For the second week in a row, Luke has recorded 100 receiving yards for the Crimson Tide. Against MSU, Luke had seven catches for 128 yards and a career high two TDs. Luke had nine catches for 102 yards in UA's 30-8 win at Vanderbilt. Luke can tie an Alabama single-season record this Saturday night at LSU. Luke enters the game with two straight 100-yard receiving games for the Crimson Tide and looking to match Freddie Milons single-season record of three straight 100-yard games during the 1999 season.
- Milons posted consecutive 100-yard games against Arkansas (9-109-1), Florida (10-119) and Ole Miss (9-133) to become the only player in school history with three straight 100-yard receiving games.
- Milons averaged 9.3 receptions and 120.3 yards per game against Arkansas, Florida and Ole Miss.
- Prior to Milons feat in 1999, Ozzie Newsome was the last UA receiver to post back-to-back 100 yards games against Miami (4-106) and Auburn (4-123-1) in 1977.
- Newsome averaged four catches and 113.5 yards against Miami, Fla., and Auburn.
Records are nice, but for now Luke is just happy to have passes thrown his way again. "I do think it's important to catch the quarterback's eye," he acknowledged. "Maybe get him looking for you a little bit more."
Watts played almost the entire game last week, completing 16-of-22 passes for 223 yards. But over the last four games Watts and back-up QB Brodie Croyle have thrown for 442 yards each, exactly equaling each other's passing output.
"There is a difference between the two," Luke said. "Brodie has a stronger arm. Sometimes he tends to zip it in there. Tyler is more a finesse thrower. You've got to really focus and concentrate on the ball when Brodie is in the game.
"But I really don't care which one is out there. I think both of them are able to play."
Predicting which offensive athlete will star in which game has been impossible so far. Who will be the hero versus LSU?
"I really don't know," Luke answered laughing. "Hopefully it'll be my turn again."