Back to square one is two-fold for Alabama. It has to find a new signal caller and a safety valve at wide receiver. One can’t replace the value of Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones. Cooper helped carry Alabama’s offense in 2014. He established himself as Blake Sims’s primary target. Cooper totaled 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns. He leaves the program as its all-time leading receiver with 228 catches for 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns.
White and Jones were complementary receivers. Both players were savvy route runners, and when healthy, both were dependable targets. White caught 40 passes for 504 yards and four touchdowns in 2014. Jones wasn’t targeted much, but he chimes in with 19 receptions for 264 yards and a touchdown. Both players ended their careers as 1,000-yard receivers at Alabama.
Alabama returns a roster littered with talented receivers in 2015. Whoever wins the quarterback job should be able to share the wealth across the field. Each new quarterback needs a veteran receiver to lean on. Here is a list breaking down some receivers that could emerge in 2015.
Chris Black, Junior, (5-11/186)
Chris Black and Amari Cooper share two common denominators. Both players are Florida natives and both came to Alabama as members of its 2012 recruiting class. Black was heralded higher than Cooper, but Cooper stole the show in 2012. He caught 59 passes for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns, while a shoulder injury caused Black to take a redshirt.
Cooper dominated as Alabama’s primary receiver for three seasons, but 2015 could finally be the year for Black. He has speed, hands and exceptional route running abilities. Crimson Tide fans got a glimpse of Black in 2013. He accounted for 79 yards on eight receptions with two touchdowns. Black’s finest performance came against Georgia State. He caught six passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.
Black saw the field 11 times in 2014. He collected 15 passes for 188 yards. Alabama’s matchup against Western Carolina witnessed Black at his best. He led the team in receptions (6) and yards (101). Black’s speed makes him a solid slot receiver, but he can be deep ball target.
O.J. Howard, Junior, (6-6/240)
2015 will be put up or shut up for O.J. Howard. He’s an explosive pass-catching tight end, yet it wasn’t on display in 2014. Howard’s size makes him a nightmare for opposing defenses. He had a productive freshman campaign in 2013, posting 14 catches for 269 yards and two touchdowns. Howard was noted for his 52-yard touchdown reception against LSU. He took a 10-yard screen pass from AJ McCarron and turned it into a 52-yard race to the endzone.
Howard was underused in 2014, but came on strong late in the season. He was instrumental in Alabama’s 20-13 overtime victory over LSU. Howard caught two passes for 12 yards on the Crimson Tide’s final drive in the fourth quarter. He ended 2014 with 17 catches for 260 yards.
Cam Sims, Sophomore, (6-4/208)
Cam Sims was a pleasant surprise for Alabama fans in 2014. He was one of few freshmen that earned playing time. Sims impressed Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban with his exceptional hands and blocking abilities. His first collegiate reception was a 15-yard grab against Arkansas.
He caught three passes against Texas A&M and Western Carolina. Sims’s first collegiate touchdown reception came on a 4-yard pass from Blake Sims against the Catamounts in the first quarter. He caught seven passes for 62 yards and a touchdown in 12 games in 2014.
ArDarius Stewart, RS Sophomore, (6-0/193)
Alabama couldn’t keep ArDarius Stewart off the field in 2014. His top-end speed makes him a hot commodity as a slot receiver. Stewart saw action in 13 games, totaling 12 catches for 149 yards. He recorded five catches for 51 yards against Western Carolina.
Stewart totaled three receptions for 63 yards against Florida Atlantic. His big play abilities granted him field time against Mississippi State. Stewart displayed strong acceleration off the line of scrimmage, catching two passes for 25 yards. He is a mixture of Amari Cooper and Kenyan Drake.
|Alabama’s 2015 receivers|
|Robert Foster||RS Sophomore|