Who's Catching On As Pass Catchers?

Perhaps because Alabama has Julio Jones returning as wide receiver, the perception is there are no problems in the Alabama pass-catching corps. It would be inaccurate to label receiver—either wide receiver or tight end—a problem area, but there will be some new names.



Following Alabama's first scrimmage of spring training on Wednesday, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban mentioned the statistics of number one quarterback Greg McElroy, who completed 22 of 33 passes for 214 yards and four touchdowns.

What about the guys who caught those passes?

It was hardly a surprise that the first receiver mentioned by Saban was Julio Jones, the 6-4, 210-pound split end who was Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year in 2008. Although Alabama was primarily a running team last season, Jones was Bama's leading receiver with 58 catches for 924 yards and four touchdowns. He started every game.

Jones wasn't Alabama's leading wide receiver in the scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium Wednesday. He had five receptions for 56 yards and one touchdown (a 10-yard pass from McElroy).

Marquis Maze had more yards as he picked up 59 yards on three catches. Maze is a 5-9, 171-pound upcoming sophomore who had 11 catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns last year. (Everyone can name the second one.)

Darius Hanks had more catches than Jones on Wednesday, six, though for only 34 yards. The 6-0 soph had eight catches for 88 yards last year.

Mike McCoy, a returning starter at wide receiver, had three receptions for 39 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown pass from McElroy. He's a 6-2, 205-pound senior who had 16 catches for 191 yards last season.

Saban said that Hanks has been consistent, that Maze has made big plays, including one in two-minute drill Wednesday, and that McCoy has been "pretty steady."

Earl Alexander is among the wide receiver candidates, but he is not participating in contact work as he recovers from a shoulder injury. "But he's been practicing well," Saban said.

Bama lost starter Nikita Stover and injury-plagued Will Oakley from last year's wide receiver corps. The story at tight end is different as both Travis McCall and Nick Walker, the two who did most of the playing, both graduated.

Senior tight end Colin Peek (a transfer from Georgia Tech who sat out last year), had a good scrimmage statistically. He caught seven passes for 33 yards, including touchdown receptions from McElroy for 15- and 4-yard touchdowns. Peek is 6-6, 250.

Chris Underwood, a 6-3, 224-pound sophomore, had four catches for 32 yards Wednesday.

The most experienced returning tight end is 6-3, 218-poundsophomore Brad Smelley,

Saban mentioned 6-6, 270-pound redshirt freshman Michael Williams as a "big body" who can block. Williams came to Alabama as a defensive end, but was moved to tight end as Alabama practiced for the Sugar Bowl last season. "He's making improvement," the coach said.

Saban said the tight ends "have done a nice job as a group. They get a ton of reps (repetitions) because we use so many multiple tight end sets. The whoe group is making progress. I'm pretty pleased.

"Those guys have to be confident in doing things correctly—running good routes, those sorts of things."

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