2015 Alabama Crimson Tide Position by Position Breakdown

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Apr 18, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver ArDarius Stewart (13) catches a pass for the touchdown for the white team as Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Maurice Smith (21) defends for the Crimson team at Bryant Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

– Key Departures: Amari Cooper (NFL Draft), DeAndrew White (graduation), Christion Jones (graduation), Brian Vogler (graduation)
– Key Returners: Robert Foster (sophomore), Chris Black (junior), ArDarius Stewart (sophomore), OJ Howard (junior)
– Key Newcomers: Calvin Ridley (true freshman)

When you lose the talent and experience of All American Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White, and Christion Jones it almost feels impossible to replace that much production, but Alabama’s receivers group is one of the deepest, talent-wise, position on the team. There isn’t a ton of experience but there is certainly a ton of talent there.

Robert Foster may wear Julio Jones’ old number (#8) but he looks closer to Amari Cooper in style and body type. He is an excellent route runner with terrific hands and a hard worker that has no problem sticking head into a defender and blocking for his running backs. He is the future star of the group but veteran Chris Black and ArDarius Stewart are the speedsters that will compliment the all around receiver in Foster.

Black was a part of the same recruiting class as Cooper and was actually higher rated among some recruiting services than Cooper, but he has struggled to get on the field in his first few years at Alabama. 2015 should be his year and the speedy receiver will be looked at one of the top deep threats on the team. Stewart is one of the most athletic receivers on the team and he managed to make some big plays last season as a freshman before an injury slowed him up. If he can stay healthy, he will be a true weapon for whoever is under center this year.

Cam Sims was likely going to be a top player in this group before he tore his ACL in the spring. Sims is one of the most physical receivers on the team and reminds me of Julio Jones. If he manages to come back from his knee injury quickly, he may be able to get onto the field in 2015 but he will more than likely be slowed up regardless because of the injury.

Incoming freshman Calvin Ridley was one of the top freshman receivers in this years recruiting class and is one of the more polished receivers to come through Alabama as a young player. Amari Cooper and Julio Jones have proven that Saban has no problem putting talented freshman receivers on the field over veterans if they earn it so Ridley will have every opportunity to get that chance.

Junior tight end OJ Howard may be one of the most talented players on the entire Alabama roster but his production has simply not matched that talent. Every season it seems like Alabama fans are asking themselves “is this OJ’s breakout year?”. Once again everyone is asking this question and also asking why has Howard not been more productive over his career thus far. He has amassed just 31 catches for just 529 yards in his career combined so far.

One of Howard’s biggest problems has been his struggle in the running game as he was very rarely asked to block in high school. He was pretty bad as a run blocker as a freshman but he did improved vastly as a sophomore in the second half of the season. Still Brian Vogler was the better blocker which meant he was one the field the majority of the time. To play in a Nick Saban offense as a tight end a player must be able to block. Saban has said that Howard has continued to improve as a blocker and expects Howard to be a big part of the offense in 2015. If he is able to stay on the field and be an effective blocker it gives Lane Kiffin a huge weapon because of his versatility as a receiver. Howard can split out wide or line up in the slot and get matched up with a much smaller defensive back which could lead to some matchup nightmares for defenders.

Behind Howard there isn’t a lot of experience and no player is even close to Howard in terms of receiving ability. Ty Flournoy-Smith is probably the best blocker but isn’t much of a threat in the passing game. Smith will likely be used in the red zone for the most part while Brandon Greene will be used similarly and possibly at the h-back some as well. Incoming freshman Hale Hentges is a massive tight end and could end up getting a shot to get on the field due to the lack of depth at this spot.

Next: When I think 2015 defensive line, I think stacked. See the rundown by clicking here