Alabama's 'Ryde Outs' are the best receivers in college football
HOOVER, Ala. — They call themselves the “Ryde Outs,” but you can refer to them as the best receiving unit in the nation. This season Alabama returns a quartet of wideouts that would make any program in the nation blush.
Headlined by reigning Biletnikoff Award winner Jerry Jeudy, the Crimson Tide’s receiving corps also features a pair of sub-4.3 speedsters in Henry Ruggs III and Jaylen Waddle as well as DeVonta Smith, who hauled in the game-winning touchdown during the 2018 national championship game. Last season, the fantastic foursome combined for 3,597 yards and 38 touchdowns through the air — the most among any four wide receivers from a Power 5 team.
Thursday, Jeudy, Ruggs and Waddle were named to the preseason watch list for the Biletnikoff Award as Alabama was the only school in the nation to have three players included on the 50-man list.
“Having guys like that, it just makes it easier for you as a quarterback,” said Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who benefited from the Crimson Tide’s luxury at the wide receiver position last season. “It’s pretty fun having guys like that that you can throw a two-yard route, you could throw a route that’s not even a route and you know they’ll make something happen out of it.”
Tagovailoa, who won both the Maxwell and Walter Camp Awards last season, projects to be a top-five pick in next year’s NFL Draft. It’s possible his future NFL team won’t feature the same amount of talent as he’ll be throwing to this season. Jeudy is also projected to land in the top-five picks of next year’s draft, while Ruggs is billed as a future first-rounder as well. Waddle, a sophomore, will likely follow suit once he’s draft-eligible, while Smith also has the makings of an NFL receiver.
“We’ve got a lot of guys on the receiving corps that love to compete,” Jeudy said. “We have that competitive mindset that we have to go out there and try to be the best player you can be and dominate every time. When you have that mindset going through your whole career you can be somebody very special.”
In recent years, much has been made of Alabama’s loaded backfields. The Crimson Tide typically runs three-deep, splitting carries amongst several talent backs. Last season, Josh Jacobs was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft despite finishing third on the team in carries behind Damien Harris and Najee Harris. Selflessness has been the mantra for a unit that hasn’t seen a running back net more than 150 carries over the past three seasons.
Last year, that team-first approach spilled over to the aerial realm as Tagovailoa distributed the ball equally amongst his targets. After seeing Calvin Ridley record nearly a third of all receptions in 2017, seven Crimson Tide pass-catchers had 20 or more receptions last season.
“You’ve got to be unselfish,” Jeudy said. “I think that’s why we’re so good, because of how unselfish we are. If one person makes a play we’re all excited. It’s like us making a play. If one person makes a play, that’s like giving us energy to make a play, too. So when we get an opportunity to play we’re always there to answer.”
Don’t get it wrong, this unit still likes to compete with one another. This offseason’s biggest debate revolved around who was the fastest of the bunch, a question that was eventually settled when Ruggs narrowly beat Waddle in a 40-yard dash inside Alabama’s indoor facility. According to Jeudy, challenges like that are an every-day occurrence inside the Crimson Tide’s receiving room.
"That’s just the competitive mindset we have with each other,” Jeudy said. “Just to prove to each other who is best and who is the better at this and that. Not to just dog one another but just to motivate each other to get better.”
Despite last season’s lofty numbers, Jeudy believes Alabama’s receiving unit still has plenty of room to grow. If that’s the case, the “Ryde Outs,” might write their way into the record books once again this year.
“We have high expectations for ourselves this year,” Jeudy said. “We had a great season last year but haven’t finished strong. There’s always things we need to improve on to better ourselves, to improve our game so we can have a better season than we did last year.”