TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Until now, Brandon Gibson’s Alabama legacy is thin.
His winning catch in last year’s A-Day game sums it up. So as a fifth-year senior who came to Alabama with his share of recruiting hype, time is running out.
But timing -- a factor that hasn’t always favored the wide receiver -- is in his favor this spring, former Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy said. Every year, Gibson was a member of the all-fall camp team, McElroy said. Julio Jones just got in the way.
Gibson was coming off his redshirt year when Jones blew into Tuscaloosa as the next great wide receiver.
“When everyone gets a real opportunity and a real shot, Brandon is like always the best guy,” McElroy said. “He’s just always so consistent. The unfortunate thing for Brandon is he had a guy named Julio Jones in front of him playing the same position. It’s not any slight against Brandon and what he can do physically; it’s just Julio was just so special. He’s going to be a great player.”
Gibson sure hopes his former quarterback is right. Three of his four catches last season came in the season-opening blowout over San Jose State. Special teams was his best bet for playing time, and he made the most of that.
Scooping up a blocked punt against Georgia State, Gibson ran it in for a 22-yard touchdown.
“A lot of people don’t take special teams really serious,” he said. “But I tell (special teams coach Bobby) Williams all the time that I want to be one of those guys they can depend on special teams and I’ll bring some young guys with me. Special teams, being a part of that, has been good for me.”
His size is also a benefit to increased playing time as a wide receiver this fall.
Without Jones, Darius Hanks at 6 feet is the tallest returning receiver with significant production.
Gibson is 6-foot-2 -- still two inches shorter than Jones -- but brings somewhat of a similar skill set to the table.
“Just being a bigger wide receiver is my biggest strength,” Gibson said, “And being a guy that can be really versatile playing multiple positions.”
Because he played only late in games and has only six career catches, there is a mystery to Gibson’s potential. That catch of AJ McCarron’s 39-yard heave on a bonus play that ended the 2010 A-Day game is still a topic of conversation for Gibson. He just is hoping to make a few of those catches when the games count.
McElroy knows that is a real possibility. He can attest to the work Gibson has done inside the green-covered fences at the Alabama practice facility.
“He does the most ridiculous stuff,” McElroy said. “If you watched him in fall camp, when everyone’s getting a fair look, literally, if you put an 8 jersey on him, you wouldn’t know. He’s not a breakaway runner; he’s real smart with his hands. He reminds me a little of A.J. Green, just a smaller version. He’s not going to kill you. He’s not going to kill a combine, but he catches everything thrown his way and uses his hands accordingly.”
So does McElroy expect Gibson will be a breakout star this fall?
“For sure,” he said without hesitation.
Gibson knows there is no shortage of talent surrounding him. The addition of former Ohio State receiver Duron Carter creates more competition.
Saturday’s first scrimmage saw Gibson catch three passes for 28 yards on an afternoon led by rising sophomore Kenny Bell’s seven catches, 89 yards, and two touchdowns.
“They explained to us that everything’s open and we compete with each other every day in order to get each other better,” Gibson said. “We’re all a team right now. We’re not really worried about the depth chart or anything like that. We’re just trying to help each other out any way we can.”