In his tenure at Alabama, Kevin Norwood was known as Mr. Everything. Regardless of his name not appearing much in conversations, Norwood let his game speak for itself. He was a dependable receiver and the one guy AJ McCarron trusted with the football. Though his style of play wasn’t flashy, Norwood was consistent. He ends his career at Alabama with 81 receptions for 1,275 yards and 12 touchdowns.
With Norwood pursuing the National Football League, the question becomes who will his mantle fall on to be the next dependable receiver for Alabama? The Tide will return a bunch of talented receivers next season, including Amari Cooper, Christion Jones and Chris Black. As a freshman, Cooper exploded out of nowhere onto the scene. He amassed 59 receptions for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Despite a toe injury early in the season, Cooper finished 2013 strong with 45 receptions for 736 yards and four touchdowns. As for Christion Jones, he has morphed into a versatile player. He was a key factor at receiver last season. Jones totaled 36 receptions for 349 yards and two touchdowns. On special teams, Jones was a game changer. He had 45 returns for 952 yards and three touchdowns. On one end, Chris Black saw very little playing time last season. However, he did show Saban and company what he’s capable of.
Of the explosive receivers Alabama has, no one really shines enough light on DeAndrew White. Weighing in at 6’0” 190 pounds, White is an impressive target. Like Norwood, White has good hands and deceptive speed. He is a smooth route runner who can make receptions in traffic, but can also burn defensive backs deep on long balls. As a freshman, White established himself as the Tide’s deep threat receiver. He had 14 receptions for 151 yards and two touchdowns.
In 2012, White was poised for a breakout sophomore campaign. His dream came to an abrupt halt against Mississippi. After catching touchdown passes against Michigan and Florida Atlantic, White suffered a season-ending ACL injury against the Rebels. With just 8 receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns, White watched in disbelief as Amari Cooper took the reins of leading receiver for Alabama.
In the offseason, White worked and rehabbed his way back. Early in the 2013 season, it was a struggle to see which receiver would rise out of the pack for the Crimson Tide. While opposing defenses keyed in on Cooper, White really stepped up and built trust with McCarron. His performance against Texas A&M was huge. White totaled four receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown.
His best reception against the Aggies came in the second quarter. Alabama was trailing Texas A&M 14-7, when McCarron dialed up White for a 44-yard touchdown off a flea-flicker. The score tied the game at 14 and eventually helped the Tide defeat the Aggies 49-42. In the matchup against Colorado State, White seemed like the only receiver who was prepared to play. He had two receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown. His performance helped the Crimson Tide put away the Rams 31-6.
Though he’s a good deep ball receiver, Alabama fans didn’t see much of White’s leaping ability until the Georgia State game. Of the four receptions he hauled in, one took the cake. With 3:08 remaining in the first quarter, Alabama led Georgia State 14-0. The Tide reached the redzone and with 2:55 left on the clock, White out leaps the defender and makes an incredible one-handed grab in the air for a 10-yard touchdown. The catch not only helped Alabama win 45-3, but it was also displayed on Sports Center’s top 10.
It was cold and rainy in week six of college football, but even Mother Nature couldn’t stop White from production against Kentucky. He had 4 receptions for 80 yards and was a prominent factor in the Tide’s 48-7 victory over the Wildcats. After the matchup against Kentucky, White went dormant for a while. He rose back on the scene at the 2013 BCS Allstate Sugar Bowl. Despite the chaos and confusion of Alabama’s offensive line and defense, White, Cooper and Derrick Henry were the bright spots of the game.
White totaled three receptions for 139 yards (46.3 yards per catch), including a 67-yard reception for a touchdown in the second quarter. He finished last season with 32 receptions for 534 yards and four touchdowns.
Instead of pursuing the NFL Draft, White has decided to return to Tuscaloosa for his senior season. According to Bleacher Report, many college football analysts have made lists concerning the top Southeastern Conference receivers for 2014. Though his name graced the list, White’s name is under Honorable Mention. For White, he has to use this as motivation and prove that he is an elite receiver. His experience will come in handy for Tide. If White can maintain his health, he is going to be the security blanket for whoever is under center next season.