Connect with us

Alabama Football News

Should Nick Saban try WR Calvin Ridley on special teams for Alabama?

Cedric Mason - Touchdown Alabama Magazine

Nick Saban is a man for experiments.

The Alabama football head coach has cross-trained linebackers, flipped linemen on both sides of the ball and even moved wide receivers to the secondary; however, he is not one to put a highly productive player in a sticky situation. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley enters his junior year as one of the more trusted guys offensively with the ball. He’s showcased tremendous playmaking abilities through two seasons, notching 161 catches for 1,814 yards and seven touchdowns.

Even with the notion of wanting a team’s lower profiled players to develop a name in the return game, some of the more well documented faces for the Tide have shined on special teams. Remember Javier Arenas?

He was the school’s career record leader in punt return yards (1,752), kick return yards (2,166) and yards per punt return average (14). A starting cornerback for Alabama’s 2009 BCS national championship team, Arenas broke Derek Abney’s Southeastern Conference record for career punt return touchdowns with his seventh against UT-Chattanooga.

Both David Palmer and Julio Jones returned kicks, while Palmer had a knack for scoring on punt returns. A consensus All-American and Paul Warfield Award winner in 1993, Palmer turned in 83 punt returns for 865 yards and four touchdowns. When it comes to having an advantage, ex-Alabama punter P.J. Fitzgerald said Saban isn’t scared to put his top weapon on special teams.

“Ball awareness and being comfortable are the two most important things in the return game,” he said. “While we had Javier Arenas and Julio Jones out there, Calvin Ridley is the one person on this year’s team who appears to have the best hands and trust of the entire coaching staff.”

Getting hit is usually the end result of both factors, but the motions are different in returning kickoffs than punts. A quick catch, look and burst comes with the former; however, recognizing where one is in relation to the ball and judging the movement of said ball occurs with the latter.

“Catching the ball cleanly is the first step,” Fitzgerald said. “Coach Saban has a lot defensive backs that can do this job, but from watching Ridley, he would be my choice out there.”

Christian Kirk and Antonio Callaway – Ridley’s peers in the SEC – have both claimed success in roles aside from wide receiver. Texas A&M had had a roster decked with talent on the perimeter; nevertheless, Kirk found ways to stand out. He’s returned 27 punts for 623 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons, including a 68-yard return versus Alabama at home in 2016. As for Callaway, he had a strong year returning punts in 2015.

The Gators’ leader in receptions for the last two seasons totaled 435 punt return yards with two scores as a true freshman, including an 85-yard return versus the Tide in the SEC title game to give Florida a 7-2 lead.

Although it is highly unlikely that fans will see Ridley on special teams, a bigger interest would be drawn having one of the fastest players for Alabama get more touches to work in space.

Stephen M. Smith is a managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

More in Alabama Football News