Alabama football: Plenty of weapons return at wide receiver, tight end

Anniston StarMarch 6, 2014 

APTOPIX Alabama Mississippi St Football

File PhotoAlabama tight end Brian Vogler (Brookstone) dives into the end zone past Mississippi State defensive back Jamerson Love for an 18-yard touchdown reception during a game last November.


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Our Alabama spring practice previews continue with a look at wide receiver and tight end, both of which are expected to have big seasons.

Departed: Kevin Norwood, Kenny Bell

WRs Ready for spring: Amari Cooper, rising junior; DeAndrew White, senior; Christion Jones, senior; Chris Black, redshirt sophomore; Raheem Falkins, sophomore; Robert Foster, redshirt freshman; ArDarius Stewart, redshirt freshman; Cameron Sims, freshman.

TE/H-backs Ready for spring: OJ Howard, rising sophomore; Brian Vogler (Brookstone), senior; Jalston Fowler, senior; Brandon Greene, sophomore; Harrison Jones, junior; Malcolm Faciane, junior.

Coming in the fall: WR Derek Kief, TE Ty Flournoy-Smith

Outlook: Whomever wins the starting quarterback job at Alabama will have plenty of weapons to work with.

In Cooper, White and Jones, the Crimson Tide returns three of its top four receivers from last season. The trio accounted for more than half of Alabama's receiving yards (1,619) and nearly half of the team's receptions (113) last year.

Like running back T.J. Yeldon, Cooper projects to be a three-and-done player who'll likely leave for the NFL if he has a strong junior season. Despite being slowed by nagging injuries early during his sophomore campaign, Cooper came on strong with 299 reception yards in the final two games of the season. He finished the year with a team-high 736 receiving yards while averaging 16.4 yards per reception. He'll be the top target on the outside.

White, who passed up the NFL Draft to return for his senior season, is another dynamic option. Last season, White showed he could play on the outside and in the slot, making him a versatile threat. Along with Jones, White will provide the position with leadership.

As for Jones, he'll likely be the guy in the slot. He doubles as a return man and is a threat to score every time he gets the ball in the open field.

The biggest question for the receivers will be who replaces Norwood. Norwood was the team's second leading receiver and has a team-high seven touchdowns in 2013.

But his biggest attribute was his ability to make catches when the Tide needed them most.

Any time Alabama needed a first down, AJ McCarron would find Norwood just pasted the marker to move the chains.

Falkins played some in mop up duty as a freshman. He's a tall, long receiver who could be a Norwood-type on third down and in the red zone.

Foster redshirted during his first year because of the log jam at the position, but he's drawn nothing but positive reviews with his showings at practice. It wouldn't come as a complete surprise if he works his way into the rotation.

Stewart also redshirted. He was a two-way player out of high school and there has been talk that he could move to safety this spring as the Tide is thin at the position.

At tight end, there are two questions -- will the Tide find a blocking tight end for its power running sets and will OJ Howard take the next step in his development?

While Alabama's offensive line struggled last season, the Tide never got the consistent blocking out of the tight end spot like it had in previous years from Michael Williams. Greene, a converted left tackle, may be able to fill this void if given the opportunity.

As for Howard, he is one of the biggest mismatches on the offensive side of the ball for the Tide. Vogler may enter spring as the No. 1 guy because of seniority, but Howard is the gem of this group.

But last season, he only had 14 receptions. That number will definitely increase this season if he remains healthy. Having Howard work the middle of the field will free up the Tide's perimeter weapons.

New Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin comes in with a cupboard stocked full of weapons. How he uses them will determine whether the Tide is competing for another championship or not.

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