Highlighting the Top WR Corps in America – Alabama


This upcoming season, I will highlight and scout the top WR groups from schools across the FBS in a new article series. Some of these players will be draft-eligible in 2019, but the groups will not be limited to draft-eligible players. The purpose of this series is to get a head start on analyzing some of the potentially dominant passing attacks for the 2018 college football season, while being able to get early looks into prospects, anticipating their entry into the NFL Draft.

The Alabama Crimson Tide receiving group will be centered around 3 rising sophomores in Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and Devonta Smith. While stuck behind All-American Calvin Ridley in 2017, as far as targets go, the three freshmen all flashed the skills that had them highly-rated prospects entering Alabama. While in high school, Jeudy, Ruggs III, and Smith were recognized with All-American honors. Additionally, according to 247 Sports, all three were among the top five wide receiver prospects in the country.

Jerry Jeudy (6’1, 187 pounds) combines silky smooth route running with plus ball skills to create arguably the wide receiver with the most potential of the trio. His loose hips and lateral agility are reminiscent of former Crimson Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper. As a ball carrier, Jeudy has excellent contact balance and violent steps stemming from the strength he already possesses in his legs. As Jeudy continues to fill out his frame, he will take on more of the receiving burden this upcoming season. If he maintains his agility, Jeudy will assuredly improve on his 14 reception, 264 yard, and 2 touchdown freshman campaign.

Henry Ruggs III (6’0, 179 pounds) is the most dynamic playmaker of the trio, flashing his electric skills to the tune of 6 touchdowns and solid production as a return man in his freshman season. Ruggs III is more of a technician as a route runner, finding voids in the defense and working into them with his athleticism. His post-catch acceleration allows him to break open plays, while his balance allows him to remain upright against pressure. Ruggs III, like Jeudy, will take on more of a role in the offense this upcoming season and should improve upon his 12 reception, 229 yard, 6 touchdown performance.

Devonta Smith (6’1, 173 pounds) has a knack for the clutch play, pulling in game winning receptions late against Mississippi State and in overtime of the National Championship against Georgia. Smith made those plays because of his ability to threaten leverage in his stems and generate separation out of those breaks. With his smooth running and sudden movements, Smith has ideal athleticism if he can add weight to his frame. While only bringing in 8 receptions for 160 yards as a freshman, Smith’s downfield playmaking ability should be more utilized if more capable passer, Tua Tagovailoa, is named the starting quarterback.

The main factor determining how these talented players will develop will be the addition of heralded wide receiver coach Josh Gattis. In his first year as a wide receiver coach at Western Michigan, Gattis mentored Jordan White into All-American honors in a 140 reception and near 2,000 yard season. He moved on from Western Michigan to Vanderbilt, where he immediately mentored Jordan Matthews into consecutive All-American seasons and a second round draft choice. Gattis would then move on to Penn State, where he coached 2017 third round choice Chris Godwin and 2018 fourth round selection DaeSean Hamilton.

With Calvin Ridley and Robert Foster moving on to the NFL and talented passer Tua Tagovailoa slated for more reps at the quarterback position, the trio of up and coming wide receivers will have a large share of quality target opportunities. With Josh Gattis’s positive track record of developing college receivers into NFL draft picks, as well as Alabama’s long history of developing highly-drafted players, the talented young trio in Tuscaloosa are in a prime position for breakout campaigns.