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August 29, 2012

Veteran receivers step into new leadership role

TUSCALOOSA | As much as any position on the field, the University of Alabama's wide receiving unit will take on a new look in 2012.

Sure, Alabama fans know names such as Kenny Bell and Kevin Norwood, the team's most experienced receivers. But from a national and even regional perspective, many college football fans know only that Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks are gone.

Quarterback AJ McCarron said he knows a lot more.

"The rest of the country might not know what they can do, but I know," McCarron said. "It doesn't matter how many Top 10 plays we get on ESPN. I know they'll make plays for me. Even if it's a bad ball by me, or whatever, they'll go up and make plays for me and make the offense look good."

In terms of experience, juniors Bell and Norwood have the most, but neither has been a full-time starter. Sophomores Christion Jones and DeAndrew White are in line for playing time as well, while freshman Amari Cooper has drawn consistent praise from UA coach Nick Saban for his preseason efforts.

But although their combined game experience doesn't stack very high, Bell and Norwood have been asserting a leadership role in the preseason.

"Me and Kenny have been looking forward to this. We've waited basically three or four seasons now to be leaders," Norwood said.

Bell indicated the same.

"I think my leadership role has improved a lot. I'm like a big brother to the guys. I try to come out and compete and try to lead by example," he said. "I'm going to push them hard as they push me hard. I'm going to lift them up when they need to be lifted up. I want to compete with them and make sure they can be the best they can be."

The preseason saw the wide receiving unit reduced by two when incoming freshmen Chris Black and Eddie Williams were injured and switched to defensive back, respectively.

"He was doing a really good job and he wants to play so bad he can't see straight, but this is one of the unfortunate things," Saban said of Black. "He's going to be an excellent player for us in the future."

Others involved in the competition at receiver include redshirt freshmen Danny Woodson Jr. and Marvin Shinn and incoming freshman Cyrus Jones.

"It's not only one of the most skillful groups of receivers we've had since I've been here, but they're all really good off the field," McCarron added. "They're all level-headed, clean guys who do the right things. That's the biggest thing coach is always preaching about."

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