In two previous posts, we’ve taken a look at questions surrounding the quarterbacks and offensive line for this year’s team. In this post, we’ll tackle the question of how to replace wide receiver Julio Jones.
From The Birmingham News
Let me end the suspense and answer the question quickly. We don’t have a single player on this year’s roster as talented as Jones.
We lost our last two starters at left tackle to the NFL as first round draft picks. No big deal. The next guy in line was the top recruit in the country last year.
We lost our 24-3 starting quarterback to graduation (and hopefully to the NFL), but we replace him with two guys that are more talented and were highly recruited. A big deal, but I think we’ll manage.
Julio Jones is a different story, however.
We have a slew of wideouts. Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks, Brandon Gibson, DeAndrew White, Kenny Bell and the list goes on. Heck, maybe even Duron Cater will eventually be eligible. But not one of those guys is more talented than Julio. He was one of those rare recruits – an in-state recruit by the way, that actually lived up to, or maybe even exceeded, the incredible recruiting hype. From his first scrimmage with the team it was evident he was special and now he’s already turning heads in Atlanta. Health permitting, he will have a fantastic career in the pros and he’s already drawing rave reviews. Let me repeat myself, we don’t have another Julio on our roster.
Julio finished his three year career at Alabama as our second all-time leader in receptions and yards. In 2010, he set the single season standard for catches (78) and yards (1,133). If he had returned for his senior season, he would have smashed the career marks beyond recognition.
But with that being said, I still think we have a good (maybe even great) group of receivers and I think they will do well this year.
Hanks brings with him 58 career receptions and six touchdowns. He’s not a burner, but he’s proven to be a tough, clutch receiver. Unfortunately, he’ll have to sit out the first two games in exchange for being eligible this year.
Maze also has impressive career totals: 80 receptions for 1,217 yards and seven touchdowns and has a decent chance of finishing his career in the top five for receptions and yards. He’s more of a deep threat than Hanks and can also return kickoffs and punts.
Marquis Maze (from WSJ.com)
Gibson’s career has been somewhat of an enigma. He had an impressive prep career, was a highly touted recruit, is a hard worker and great team player, but, for some reason, that hasn’t translated into quality playing time. Gibson will most likely start the season in the playing rotation (especially with Hanks missing the first two games) and has an excellent opportunity to finish his career on a very strong note, similar to the last #11 at Alabama, Matt Caddell.
Kenny Bell played in 10 games as a freshman last year and sophomore Michael Bowman, who redshifted last year after playing in four games in 2009, has been impressive at times this fall.
Redshirt freshman DeAndrew White has received a lot of positive press this fall, and if these reports are true, he’s ready to explode on the scene. Duron Carter, the high-profile son of NFLer Cris Carter is probably physically the most similar to Julio, but his enrollment this fall has been delayed and he’s missed valuable camp time.
So although no one receiver will replace Julio, the is an ample pool of talent to form a “replacement by committee.” There was a tendency over the Julio’s career for his quarterbacks to lock onto to him, often to the detriment of our other receivers (hey, who wouldn’t lock onto Julio?), however, that option won’t be available this year. As a result, Hanks’ and Mazes’ opportunities will increase significantly and the others in the group will have an opportunity to compete for a bunch of catches. Opposing defenses will no longer be able to double one player and ignore the others, so game plan-wise, this gives Bama a chance to to reset it’s philosophy and spread the ball around. There is plenty of talent at this position, but it’s either young or unproven. For Bama to live up to it’s lofty preseason ranking, this group will need to gel quickly and a go-to receiver will need to step up immediately.