Fall Camp Report – Wide Receivers & Slot Receivers
Amari Cooper – 6’1, 202 Sophomore: What is there to say about Cooper that hasn’t already been said? The kid is awesome. We still laugh at the 3 star rating that was originally given to Cooper when he verballed to Alabama. Once his film started getting out, he was invited to the Under Armour game and absolutely destroyed anyone who tried to cover him during the UA practices and game. As a high school senior, Coop showed an uncanny ability to use his body to create separation and always seemed to catch the ball at the apex of his jump – a talent that belied his young age. Last year against A&M, Cooper showed poise in his route recognition when an Aggie corner jumped a hitch route. He recognized this and made eye contact with AJ – the resulting go route scored a quick TD. All this as a freshman. Word is that he’s sharpened his route running and, gasp, has gotten better during the offseason. Holy….
Kevin Norwood – 6’2, 193 Senior: AJ McCarrons wubbie blanket returns for his senior season and he hopes to be fully healthy after missing the spring due to a turf toe surgery. Norwood essentially won the LSU game last season when McCarron turned to his trusted WR time and time again on that famous last drive. When the going gets tough, if it’s not Cooper making plays then you can expect AJ to be looking in this senior’s direction this season.
Kenny Bell – 6’1, 180 Senior: All I can think of is the Randy Moss rap where he explains that his role is to “take the top off the defense” because that’s a perfect description of Bell’s value to the Bama offense. Honestly, we feel bad for any safety who finds himself locked up on the likes of Cooper, Norwood or Jones but God help them if Nussmeier finds a way to get them matched up on Bell or White. Bell has speed, speed and more speed – a nightmare for safeties across the country. Last season, Bell added the ability to scorch people on underneath crossing routes, as well. Nice.
DeAndrew White – 6’0, 190 Junior: I have to say that I’m pretty enamored with White. He’s fast, athletic and has shown tremendous hands when he’s been healthy. This kid has all of the tools to be an Amari-eque type of receiver. But, just when it looked as though he was breaking thru last year, he suffered an ACL injury. I thought White looked fantastic during the A-Day game as he showed his old burst and a great pair of mitts and rumor has it that he’s looking 100% once again. Here’s hoping the kid can pick up where he left off last season before his injury.
Raheem Falkins – 6’4, 203 Freshman: You know how sometimes big surprises can come in little packages? Well, that’s not the case with this 6’4 receiver. Very little was known about Falkins when he verballed with Alabama last year as a high school senior. Even after his commitment, we didn’t get to see Falkins in any all-star games so his recruitment really didn’t create much buzz. Falkins is a little similar to Amari Cooper in that the Bama staff fell in love with him early and garnered a commitment from him at the beginning of the recruiting cycle – maybe that’s why there wasn’t much of a buzz about him. Suffice it to say that Falkins is making a whole lotta noise now with an exceptional spring, an exceptional A-Day and a very strong summer. Don’t be surprised if it’s Falkins who emerges as the go to WR from this signing class because that’s where it stands right now. Falkins has been a tremendous surprise and has the makings to be the kind of WR who can overshadow a 5 star Robert Foster.
Christion Jones – 5’11, 185 Junior: Christion Jones is another favorite of ours. When Jones is lined up in the slot he is strong enough to crack back and take out a LB but is fast enough to split the safeties down the seam on a seam route. Jones returns kicks, punts and even has played some in the secondary. There’s very little Jones cannot do – he’s just a solid, solid football player. He may not have the quicks like some of his cohorts but he’s solid and as tough as they come.
Chris Black – 5’11, 182 Redshirt Freshman: Back in, Black! It’s been too long and he’s glad to be back… and, more than likely, AJ McCarron is glad he’s back, as well. Last summer, you might recall, Chris Black was the talk of the town and it was anticipated that he would make a tremendous impact during his true freshman season. The recruiting rankings actually ranked Black higher than Cooper and while Cooper garnered plenty of attention, Black was also talked about quite a bit – usually in the same breath. Black is smaller but he’s extremely quick and has shown that he’s not afraid to go over the middle and snag a pass. He’ll never be the blocker that Christion Jones is out of the slot but Jones will also never shake a defender like Black will out of the slot, either. If Black can stay healthy, the sky is the limit for this kid.
Newcomers: Robert Foster (6’3, 190) and ArDarius Stewart (6’0, 190) reported for fall camp while Falkins had the luxury of being an early enrollee, so that will put Foster and Stewart pretty far behind Falkins in the pecking order. It will be interesting to see which of these two kids picks up the offense the quickest. Oh, and remember, Stewart didn’t get nearly the amount of pub as Foster did but it’s been said he’s absolutely electrifying with the ball in his hands.
What we said in Spring: Even with the losses of Woodson, Shinn and Eddie Williams, this stable of fleet-footed wide receives may rank as the most talented group Alabama has ever had. Yes it does seem like we say this at every single position on the team – I guess that’s just what happens when you continually bring in #1 ranked recruiting classes.
With Doug Nussmeier in his second year as the offensive coordinator, he’s definitely earned Saban’s trust as a play caller. Additionally, Coach Nuss likely has a better grasp of his personnel so he’ll understand how to design an offense that is perfectly tailored to fit this group of gazelles. Yeldon is a superb receiver out of the backfield. OJ Howard is a matchup nightmare from the TE position. And, you have a 5th year quarterback who led the nation in passing efficiency last year throwing seeds to a corps of four and five-star studly WRs. If you don’t think Alabama is going to throw the ball a lot more this season then I think you may be confusing this year’s Alabama team to some from the past. Note: this is NOT your daddy’s Alabama offense. Look for AJ to utilize deep seam routes to any one of the WRs listed above as each one of them will have the speed and the hands to haul in some long TD passes. If you love the passing game then this is going to be a really fun season for you. If you are a defensive coordinator then you likely will not have nearly as much fun watching this offense as I will.
Fall Camp Previews