Ridley headlines talented Alabama receiving corps
TUSCALOOSA, ALA. >> Calvin Ridley doesn't want to brag on Alabama's receiving corps too much.
Sure, it's a group full of talented, mostly experienced playmakers — especially counting tight end O.J. Howard — on an offense where the quarterbacks are still duking it out for the starting job and there's no established tailback.
The biggest star of the group nevertheless mixes confidence with a dollop of humble brag.
"As a group of receivers, we're really good," Ridley said. "I don't want to boost our ego up but we've got some good guys on this team who can make a lot of plays."
Maybe Cooper Bateman, Blake Barnett or freshman Jalen Hurts will seamlessly grab the quarterback job. Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris certainly have the pedigree to become the Crimson Tide's latest accomplished backfield duo.
All that's still getting sorted out, but offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin certainly has the widest array of experienced receiving options of his 'Bama tenure.
It starts with Ridley, who had one of the most prolific seasons by a freshman receiver in major college football. His 89 catches and 1,045 yards topped Julio Jones and Amari Cooper to set Alabama freshman marks. He had the second-most catches for a freshman in major college football history and set a Southeastern Conference record.
Ridley didn't even start until Robert Foster went down with a season-ending shoulder injury in the third game, and now a healthy Foster returns.
"I think he would have had a great season if he hadn't gotten hurt," Kiffin said. "Very special skill set as far as speed and ability to get on top of the coverage downfield and if he's healthy I think he'll really have another one, too. He'll play well and help the guys around him."
Then there's deep threat ArDarius Stewart, who had 700 receiving yards last season.
Howard wasn't targeted frequently during the regular season but was the offensive MVP of the national championship game. His 208 yards against Clemson was the most by an Alabama player in a bowl game and a national title game record.
Richard Mullaney is the only significant receiver gone from last season, and he was replaced by another graduate transfer. Gehrig Dieter joins the Tide after earning second-team All-MAC honors last season with Bowling Green (Kentucky) with 94 catches for 1,038 yards.
Dieter spoke to Mullaney before transferring to Alabama and is hoping to leave with the same prize: A national title.
"We have probably some of the best receivers in the country — Calvin, ArDarius, Cam (Sims), Rob," Dieter said. "Our depth is just crazy to me, to come in here and see what kind of talent these guys have and how hard they work every single day and how committed they are to the process has been a joy to see."
Alabama still has a deep group even after sophomore Daylon Charlot transferred to Kansas over the summer and Chris Black moved on to Missouri. Freshmen Trevon Diggs and T.J. Simmons join the mix, along with Dieter.
"It's one of the best receiving corps we've ever had if not the best," Tide safety Eddie Jackson said. "Hands down.
"Those guys come in and they challenge us every day. We challenge them back. They love competition. They don't shy away from it."
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