Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Tide poised for even bigger year offensively

During the Nick Saban era at Alabama, one thing has always been constant with the offense: The Tide’s main point of attack comes from a dominant offensive line and punishing runs from powerful running backs.

But with the departure of three veteran offensive linemen and yet another talented running back in Eddie Lacy, the Alabama offense will need players to step up in the passing game in 2013.

The Tide won’t be lacking in talent at the wide receiver this position, however, as all of the Tide’s leading receivers return after a record-breaking season in 2012. What’s more, Alabama is bringing in even more talented recruits at the position, making Alabama’s 2013 wide receiver corps one of the most explosive in recent memory.

This year, much like in 2012, the Alabama receiving game should start with sophomore standout Amari Cooper, who turned in a freshman record 1,000 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns en route to earning Freshman All America honors last season.

Cooper said he hasn’t let the success go to his head, however, and has continued to make improvements in his technique and measurable skills. He said he has cut down his 40-yard dash time from 4.4 seconds to 4.34, while adding roughly seven pounds of weight.

Cooper said one of the biggest advances he’s seen in his game this year, however, is his ability to step in and immediately understand the offensive playbook.

“Everything is easier,” Cooper said. “When I first came in (2012), I didn’t know a lot of plays. Anytime you don’t know something you can’t go full speed when you’re playing a sport. This year, I know pretty much the whole offense and I can play fast.”

Cooper said he wasn’t the only one making improvements in his game, either, and that he’s seen good things from all the receivers thus far.

“It’s going well,” Cooper said. “We’re working hard. Just trying to go out there and compete every day and be the best team that we can be.”

Still, the wide receivers aren’t running at full speed this spring, with a few key players still not entirely healed from last season’s squad. Kenny Bell, who missed the SEC Championship and BCS National Championship games due to a broken leg, is only at “75 percent” of his total speed before the injury.

Likewise, Kevin Norwood, the team’s second-leading receiver in 2012, has been largely limited in the spring due to a nagging toe injury.

Bell said he’s still trying to act in a leading role for the team, and that the younger players should use the opportunity to get even better heading into the fall.

“That just gives the younger guys someone else to look at, that’s why I go out there and fight even though my leg’s not there,” Bell said. “I go out there and fight to show them that we’ve got to put in work in the spring to get better.”

So far, Bell said he hasn’t been disappointed in what he’s seen from the younger players.

“It’s going to be one of the most explosive ones we’ve had,” Bell said, “because all the receivers coming out there, they make plays, they push each other and we’re just going to come out and show them what we’ve got at receiver.”

That was seen in the Tide’s first scrimmage of the year, when DeAndrew White exploded out of the gates to earn team highs with seven receptions, 132 receiving yards and two touchdowns. White was one of Alabama’s more explosive receivers last year before suffering an ACL injury in a 33-14 victory over Ole Miss.

The same can be said of Chris Black, who drew rave review last spring before suffering a shoulder injury that made him miss the entire 2012 season. Cooper said Black has looked good this spring so far.

The wide receivers aren’t going to comprise solely of players returning from injuries, however. The Tide has also brought in a bevy of early enrollee recruits to strengthen what was already a loaded position.

Two big names in this year’s recruiting class were tight end O.J. Howard and freshman Robert Foster, two of the best players at their respective positions. While those two players certainly drew most of the attention among the possible receiving threats, one player in particular has made good use of his early enrollee status: Raheem Falkins.

“His ceiling is very high,” Cooper said of Falkins. “He’s a big guy. He comes out of his breaks fast and he has great hands. I mean, he just has to keep working everyday to fulfill his potential.

“When fall camp comes and the two new receivers come, like, it’s going to be different. They’re not going to know anything and he’s going to know everything.”

Regardless of all the Tide’s individual talent at the position, Bell said what motivated he and the rest of his teammates the most wasn’t personal statistics. Rather, they want everyone to recognize them as one of the best groups in the country.

“We definitely are motivated by that,” Bell said. “Because we all have the talent to be the best so we all go out there and work hard to be the best. We don’t want the world to single out just one, we want them to see the whole receiving corps.”

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