Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley ready to step into leadership role
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Calvin Ridley appears to have added a little bit of bulk over the offseason, especially on his shoulders. That’s fitting, as the Alabama receiver figures to have plenty of weight and expectations placed upon them this year.
Ridley, who says he currently weighs “180 something,” enters his junior season as the Crimson Tide’s leading returning receiver. He earned second-team All-SEC honors last year after tallying 769 yards and seven touchdowns on a team-high 72 receptions. More importantly, he is the only one of Alabama’s top four receivers from last season still on the roster, as the Tide will be without ArDarius Stewart, O.J. Howard and Gehrig Dieter.
As Alabama attempts to account for the combined 1,673 yards and 15 touchdowns left behind by the departing trio, Ridley knows he’ll have to replace more than just stats this year.
“I would say I'm now the leader of the wide receiver group,” Ridley said. “I want to take that role on and not only to my group but my team, and be one of the captains on the team. That's what I feel like I need to do.”
Generally soft-spoken during interviews, Ridley said he is working on being more vocal with his fellow receivers. Just don’t expect the junior to change is calm and collected demeanor on the field.
“I lead by example already, I think,” Ridley said. “I just need to speak up some. I don't say too much.”
While Ridley might be the only experienced receiver, he’s hardly the only talent that Tide has at the position. Alabama returns 6-foot-5 junior Cam Sims as well as senior Robert Foster, who was the Tide’s No. 1 receiver in 2015 before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.
There has also been plenty of hype surrounding the Tide’s two early enrollees at the position, four-star Tyrell Shavers and five-star Jerry Jeudy. Shavers, 6-foot-6, was rated as the No. 24 receiver and No. 152 player overall in the 2017 class, while Jeudy ranked as the No. 3 receiver and 19th player overall.
Jeudy continues Alabama’s recent trend of highly-rated receivers from South Florida, as he follows former Biletnikoff Award winner Amari Cooper and Ridley, who both hail from the area. Growing up playing with Jeudy, Ridley says he remembers the speedy receiver holding his own among older players
“Jerry was always with us even when we played in the field by ourselves,” Ridley said. “I already knew he was going to be good.”
Ridley even took it a step further, comparing Jeudy to himself when he first arrived on campus. Ridley broke Alabama’s single-season freshman receiving record with 1,045 yards in 2015. He said he expects Jeudy to make a serious run at that mark this season.
“I want him to break it. That's my boy,” Ridley said. “He's just complete. He's a full receiver.”
Of course, Ridley might be in line to break some records of his own. The speedy receiver was somewhat limited in what he could do last season, as quarterback Jalen Hurts experienced some growing pains during his freshman year. Ridley credited newly hired offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for his work with Hurts and said he has seen growth in the young quarterback over the offseason.
“He's balling. He's doing good,” Ridley said of Hurts. “He's working on his pass game a lot and trying to get that right. The coach is going to do a good job with him. He's getting coached really well, so I see great things for him.”
If Hurts is able to improve his downfield passing, it would not only open up Alabama’s offense but also allow Ridley to utilize his big-play ability. While the thought of more deep passes coming his way is intriguing, Ridley is remaining patient for now and says he’s content contributing any way he can.
“It's exciting, but you have to work on all types of things to help us,” he said. “Even if it's short things, it doesn't matter.”