WR could be a bigger issue for Bama than QB
So much of the offseason talk about Alabama has been focused on the quarterback competition — will Jake Coker be the opening game starter, or will it be David Cornwell?
However, another important question needs to be asked: Which receivers will the starting QB be throwing the ball to?
Amari Cooper was undoubtedly the star of the Crimson Tide offense last season, recording the top receiving grade in the nation and getting drafted No. 4 overall by the Oakland Raiders. Bama’s No. 2 and No. 3 WRs from 2014 – DeAndrew White and Christion Jones – are also now on NFL rosters, leaving the Tide without 81.3 percent of their targets from the previous season.
Who are the top candidates to fill the void?
Chris Black: He posted a very impressive 86.0 WR grade in 2014, and he should again handle slot duties this season. His 23 career catches are the most on Bama’s receiver depth chart.
ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster: These former star recruits averaged 2.81 and 2.32 yards per route run, respectively, which are good numbers. Both also starred during spring practice. But with only 18 career catches and 193 yards between them, they still have a lot to prove.
Richard Mullaney: A graduate transfer from Oregon State, his 70.2 WR grade in an injury-shortened 2014 season was underwhelming, but his 83 career catches and 1,160 yards immediately make him the veteran of the group.
Calvin Ridley: He is another high-profile recruit who will be joining the team for fall camp, and he could be asked to contribute right away.
It’s possible that the next great Alabama wide receiver is already on the roster, but we might not see that player truly emerge until the 2016 season. In the meantime, the Tide may have to lean on their running game — and talented pass-catching tight end O.J. Howard — while their young receiving corps gains some experience.