The wide receiver position at Alabama is one that featured a lot of intrigue this offseason.
The Crimson Tide lost two first-round draft picks for the second year in a row and only returned two players with starting experience under their belts. Another wideout was also ruled out from playing before the 2021 campaign even began because of medical issues.
It’s no wonder some of the new additions to the receiving corps have received praise in fall camp and look poised to make an impact in less than two weeks. When asked about leading receiver John Metchie, head coach Nick Saban assessed the entire position group.
“Jamo Williams is a guy that’s really made a big impact in this camp,” said Saban after Saturday’s scrimmage. “We’ve been trying to manage Metch through. He’s coming off of a couple surgeries, coming back. He’s been playing really well when he’s had the opportunity. He made some big plays today.
“And Slade’s doing good, JoJo Earle’s doing good. A couple of the freshmen are coming along. So I think it’s going to be a bit of a work in progress with this group, but I do think we have enough talent there to have some really good players that can play fast and be explosive. And obviously, John Metchie is the guy that has the most experience doing that, and we feel like he’s getting more and more healthy, and I thought he played fast today.”
Saban mentioned Williams first, really without hesitating, when asked about Metchie and Bolden — two presumed starters at the position. The Ohio State transfer has impressed since he arrived on UA’s campus earlier this summer, which could lead to a first-team role this season. Williams played with the ones in Saturday’s scrimmage and scored a touchdown.
“He’s done great,” Saban said of Williams. “He’s a really good player. He’s got really good speed. You can tell he’s an experienced player. He’s played at a high level against good competition. And he’s very bright, so he’s picked up on things and learned the offense very quickly. So we’re encouraged with what he’s done, and I’m sure he’s going to make a really positive contribution to our team and be a featured guy in some ways.”
Alabama also added four freshmen to its roster this offseason with Ja’Corey Brooks, Agiye Hall and Christian Leary enrolling in the spring and JoJo Earle joining the fray in the summer. Saban mentioned Earle by name, and he is someone that has seemingly carved out a role on special teams as a punt returner in addition to possibly contributing at receiver this season.
“With the freshman receivers, really all of them have stepped in and done a good job of learning and working hard,” Bolden said. “They know it’s tough, it’s different from what they’re used to coming out of high school. They’re learning that — to play tough, to play fast, play physical, play with effort, and they’re doing a good job of playing that way.”
There are also three now-sophomores on the Tide’s roster in Javon Baker, Traeshon Holden and Thaiu Jones-Bell, and they could all also factor into the rotation this fall. But it looks as if the returning players have faced some stiff competition from the new additions throughout the summer with Williams and some of the freshmen making pushes for playing time.
Still, Metchie has clearly been Alabama’s top receiver, which is just as expected after finishing second on the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns a year ago.
“Metchie’s been really good for us, being kind of that veteran presence for us in the receiving corps,” quarterback Bryce Young said. “Someone who’s come back, someone who’s dependable and someone who has a lot of experience. He brings a lot of that to not only his own game but to the entire team. Someone who played a big role on the team last year and is going to play a big role this year. He’s someone that’s really been a cornerstone of our offense.
“He’s helped a lot tremendously when it comes to leadership and leading us as an offense and on the field, obviously, there’s stuff that he does on the field that are just special and he makes my job a lot easier at quarterback.”
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