When talking about the Alabama Crimson Tide, dominant players, seasons, and coaches come to mind. Among some of the top recent players to play for Alabama and head coach Nick Saban are three great wide receivers.
One of them, Calvin Ridley already has made a big impression. In his freshman year in 2015, Ridley accounted for 89 receptions for 1,045 yards (an average of 11.7 yards per reception) and seven touchdowns.
Alabama WR Calvin Ridley is destined to breakout again
Last season, Ridley was not as explosive. He accounted for 769 yards on 72 receptions (an average of 10.7 yards per reception) and seven touchdowns. Ridley also rushed for a touchdown last season.
This season, Ridley is a 2nd team AP preseason All-American. Here are some ways Ridley will have a better season this year.
The Passing Game for the Tide will Intensify
This past season for the Crimson Tidewas in a way a rebuilding season. This was due mainly in part of the transitioning to a new quarterback after Jacob Coker graduated after the 2015 season.
Saban, then offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, and the Tide did not find an answer at quarterback until halfway through the first quarter against the USC Trojans. Jalen Hurts rose up and claimed the starting spot in that game. With Hurts as the quarterback, the offensive strategy started to change to be more aggressive through quarterback runs and option run-passes.
A change also occurred in the receiving corps as Ridley, the deep threat in 2015, was being changed to a screen and catch/run receiver while ArDarius Stewart was the deep threat. Last season, Stewart was the leading receiver for the Tide with 864 yards on 54 receptions and eight touchdowns.
This season, there is a dramatic change in the Tide’s passing offense with Stewart leaving early for the 2017 NFL Draft (third round pick). There also was the departure of not one but two offensive coordinators in Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian.
In at offensive coordinator is Brian Daboll. He has brought his New England Patriots pro-style offense and will mix it in with the Tide’s multiple offensive look.
In 2016, Hurts threw for 2,780 yards on 240 completions (out of 382 attempts) for 23 touchdowns a. He is only expected to get better. Ridley will be the main target for every passing play and will be properly utilized under Daboll’s offense.
Ridley is similarly following in the footsteps of Julio Jones and Amari Cooper
Two other great wide receivers to play for Alabama under Saban are Julio Jones and Amari Cooper. Both of these receivers started their careers as true freshman for the Tide, like Ridley. They both had dominating freshman seasons with Jones accounting for 924 yards on 58 receptions for four touchdowns in 2008 and Cooper accounting for 1,000 yards on 59 receptions for 11 touchdowns in 2012.
After great respective freshman seasons, both Jones and Cooper had sophomore slumps mostly from the opposing defenses locking down on them. This is similar to how Ridley was locked on by opposing defenses last season.
In his sophomore year, Jones only accounted 596 reception yards (64.5% of his freshman year’s yards) and four touchdowns. Cooper accounted 736 reception yards (73.6% of his freshman year’s yards) and four touchdowns in his. In in their junior years, Jones had 78 receptions for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns and Cooper had 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Jones was selected sixth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons and Cooper was selected in fourth overall in the 2015 draft by the Oakland Raiders. Both of these receivers were involved in a change of pace offensively, just like Ridley is experiencing this season.
Outlook going into the 2017 College Football season
There is reason to believe that Ridley will be highly successful this season. Opposing teams will obviously attempt to key in once again on Ridley’s routes and plays. Much like Jones and Cooper did, Ridley must be able to steer past the tough exterior of the opposing defenses and create a weakness consistently for the offense.
In their season-opening win over No. 3 Florida State on Thursday, Ridley led the Tide with seven receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown. He already is on his way to a great junior campaign.