Alabama Football: Serious Wide Receiver issue in recent years

Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan
Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

The Alabama Football program from 2020 until 2022 was a wide receiver factory putting top-tier wide receivers in the NFL with two or more receivers drafted in those seasons. In 2020, Henry Ruggs III was selected twelfth overall and Jerry Jeudy was picked fifteenth overall. In 2021, Jaylen Waddle was drafted sixth overall and Devonta Smith was selected tenth overall. In 2022, Jameson Williams went twelfth overall and John Metchie went 44th overall.

Even before the stretch of two wide receivers a year being picked the Alabama Football team was producing first-round talent nearly every season. Calvin Ridley went 26th in 2018, and ArDarius Stewart was picked 79th overall. In 2015, Amari Cooper was drafted fourth, and in 2011 Julio Jones went sixth overall.

Then we start with the 2023 NFL Draft, where despite having a Heisman winner at Quarterback, no wide receivers were drafted at all. The 2022 Alabama Football season was also the first time since 2013 that no Alabama receiver eclipsed the 800-yard mark. The top receiver for the 2022 season was Jermaine Burton who recorded 677 yards on 40 catches and seven touchdowns.

This trend extended into the 2023 season where once again no Alabama Football receiver eclipsed 800 yards as Jermaine Burton came close with 798 yards. This marked the first time the Alabama Football program had back-to-back seasons without a receiver getting above 800 yards since 2004 and 2005. The Alabama Football program will also not have a receiver picked in the first round as Jermaine Burton if he declares will most likely be a day-two pick.

Why has this become a trend? Where should the blame be placed? Will a new receiver coach fix this? Is this a recruiting problem or a coaching problem?

To dive into the issue, we have to start with recruiting as we get a look at the talent of the receivers brought in during this period. The 2020 recruiting class is the first class that needs to be looked at to see the issue. The class had three wide receivers sign with the Alabama Football team with Thaiu Jones-Bell, Traeshon Holden, and Javon Baker all of whom were four-star recruits.

All three haven't panned out with the Alabama Football team with the trio entering the transfer portal. Thaiu Jones-Bell spent four years in the Alabama Football program catching only four passes for 19 yards and spending most of his time dealing with injuries. Traeshon Holden played in two seasons with a big role in the 2022 season catching 46 passes for 570 yards and seven touchdowns. Javon Baker's been the most productive of the group however his production has come at UCF where this past season he caught 52 passes for 1,139 yards and seven touchdowns.

Jones-Bell's career for the Alabama Football team can be blamed on bad luck missing the entire 2023 season on a medical issue. Traeshon Holden is an interesting case to look at, the receiver started the first five games before seeing his role diminished before not seeing any snaps in the Ole Miss and LSU games. Javon Baker however is the player you have to be the most upset the Alabama Football team couldn't hold onto as he's developed into a great receiver for the UCF Knights. Baker only appeared in 20 games for the Alabama Football team mostly in mop-up duty recording only nine catches for 116 yards and a touchdown. He also had experience with Jalen Milroe which would've helped in 2023 as he caught his only touchdown from Milroe against Southern Mississippi.

The 2021 recruiting class is the most disappointing of these groups given the quality of talent that was brought in and how badly the team needed good receivers during the span they should have played. Four wide receivers were signed with five-star Ja'Corey Brooks the second-ranked wide receiver in the country and Agiye Hall, Jojo Earle, and Christian Leary all of whom were four-star recruits.

During their freshman year, they competed on a team that lost the National Championship in part due to how bad their receiving core became. In the SEC Championship game, they lost John Metchie to an ACL injury and in the National Championship Game they lost Jameson Williams to an ACL injury as well. In the National Championship game, they needed one of their young receivers to step up and make an impact as Devonta Smith had in 2017.

Brooks, Holden, and Hall were all called upon to help replace the team's pair of 1,000-yard receivers. Agiye Hall caught two passes for 52 yards but, will forever be remembered for one of the worst drops in the worst moment. Ja'Corey Brooks had the most success of the trio with his catch against Auburn saving the season before his career was derailed by injuries and a demotion. He however recorded six catches for 47 yards in the National championship contributing for the offense. Traeshon Holden caught six passes for just 28 yards in the game. Leary and Earle didn't see any playing time in the game.

All four receivers recruited in the 2021 recruiting class ended up transferring with Agiye Hall leaving after his first season to Texas, Jojo Earle leaving after his sophomore season for TCU, as did Christian Leary for Georgia Tech, and Ja'Corey Brooks leaving following the 2023 season for Louisville.

That brings us to the 2023 season where things didn't get any better for the Alabama Football team. Jermaine Burton led the team in receiving with 798 yards. The 2022 recruiting class has contributed with every 2020 and 2021 recruit at wide receiver transferring however there's still no homegrown elite wide receiver. Isaiah Bond has been the best with 668 yards this season followed by Kobe Prentice with 314 yards and a 337-yard season as a true freshman. Prentice, Bond, and Kendrick Law will need to step up in 2024 to both help the Alabama Football team win and break the draft drought the program is in.

The 2022 recruiting class saw Aaron Anderson transfer after his freshman season and Shazz Preston entered the transfer portal following this season.

Alabama Football: Where should the blame be placed?

The Alabama Football program will get its first answer to if the blame lands on coaching as soon as this season as Holmon Wiggins left the program for Texas A&M. The case for blame being placed on Wiggins is tricky while the trend starts with his arrival as the wide receivers coach but, under his coaching, Devonta Smith won the Heisman. The argument can be made that this is a recruiting problem are the coaches maybe making promises they can't keep causing talented recruits like Baker, Hall, and Anderson to leave way sooner than they should? This is all a curious issue and a concern for the Alabama Football program that they'll need to fix going forward.

Note: Stats via ESPN and Recruiting info via 24/7 sports