Calvin Ridley teaching and learning from trio of freshman receivers


Joe Klingbeil

It seems like yesterday Crimson Tide fans and coaches alike were gawking at the skillset young receiver Calvin Ridley brought to the table as a freshman, as he collected 1045 receiving yards and endless comparisons to former receiver Amari Cooper. 

Now, as a junior, Ridley is the veteran receiver who sets the standard for the new wave of Alabama receivers. But instead of one young flanker receiving praise this season, there are three: Jerry Juedy, Henry Ruggs III and Devonte Smith. 

“They’re doing great,” Ridley said. “They’ve been doing it since they first stepped on campus. They’re playing great football and we’ve got all the confidence in the world in them.”

Through six games, the trio of Jeudy, Ruggs III and Smith has accounted for 16 receptions, 279 yards and six touchdowns. Ridley most deservingly receives the better part of the attention from quarterback Jalen Hurts, but do not let the discrepancies in the numbers fool you; these young guys pose a threat. 

“They’re very experienced, I mean they play a lot.” Anthony Averett said. “They’ve been playing a lot throughout the season, I mean that’s good, we need a lot of depth toward the end of the season because you know they’ll be playing a lot more just in case somebody goes down. They’ve been doing well, they do well in practice, they practice hard and just come prepared.”

The three young receivers came to Tuscaloosa as four-star recruits, and have lived up to the billing. And they came at a time when the Crimson Tide needed them most. 

For the first time since 2014, the Alabama offense headed into the new year tasked with replacing three of its leading receivers from the previous season. The loss of ArDarius Stewart, OJ Howard and Gehrig Dieter left Ridley, Robert Foster and Cam Sims as the most experienced wideouts on the Crimson Tide roster. 

However the drop off in the passing game is unnoticeable under first year offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and there is credit belonging to the freshman receivers, who have quickly gelled with the rest of the offense. 

“Everybody’s cool with one another. They get stuff from us and we get some from them,” Foster said. “The new school likes to do all this stuff, so I’ll be like ‘How did you do that?’ or something, and he’ll tell me and teach me something.”

The loss of a few veteran receivers has also afforded Ridley the opportunity to take on a new role as a mentor for the trio of talented receivers. And as far as leaders go, there are few players more appropriate to learn from than Ridley. 

“[Calvin] sets a great example for the young guys and has been a really good leader in that regard,” Nick Saban said. “We’re pleased with Calvin’s performance and we’re very pleased with his leadership role; the example he’s set and the time that he’s taken to try to affect the other guys in a positive way.”

If SEC defenses thought they would be off the hook soon when Ridley heads for the next level, they just received three new reasons to be upset: Jeudy, Ruggs III and Smith. All true freshman and all ready to make an impact. 

“They’re really fast, really talented guys,” offensive tackle Jonah Williams said. “And I think there is a good group of leadership with Calvin and those older guys to kind of show them the ropes. They’ve done a good job of learning the offense and adapting to it and I’ve been impressed with them so far.”