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Spring preview: Wide receivers

3/15/2012
Rob Carr/Getty Images

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The hiring of Doug Nussmeier as the new offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama may not result in a direct philosophy change, but the last two recruiting classes show that the Crimson Tide may be looking to air it out more in the future.

Alabama has loaded up at wide receiver over the last two years, in part to the fact that the team lost three senior wide receivers, Brandon Gibson, Darius Hanks and Marquis Maze, from last year’s national championship team.

Regardless, with the loss of the three seniors and the suspension of three more receivers, the position should look very different when the Crimson Tide travel to Dallas for the season opener against Michigan.

The incumbents

It seems like every discussion of the current crop of wide receivers starts with the qualifier, “If.”

If Duron Carter can be a part of the team, the offense could take a giant leap forward. His play-making ability was sorely missed last year and the depth now is thinner than ever. If Kevin Norwood can build off his performance against LSU in National Championship, AJ McCarron could have a stable of receivers to throw to in the fall. The junior from Mississippi showed himself capable on the game’s biggest stage, but his performance could as easily be an aberration as a sign of things to come.

Simply put, the questions outweigh the sure things with this bunch. Norwood, DeAndrew White, Kenny Bell and Christion Jones will have to fend off a pack of eager rookies in spring practice, and you’ve got to imagine Nick Saban and staff will look to one of them to step up as a second or third receiver capable of leading a young receiving corps.

The challengers

With the wide receiver position wide open heading into next fall, it’s one of the spots where a freshman could see immediate playing time, and Alabama signed the playmakers who could do just that in its 2012 recruiting class.

The incoming group is headlined by a pair of Florida wide receivers, Chris Black and Amari Cooper. Both players ranked in the top 10 nationally at their position and both enrolled early at UA, giving them a leg up on the rest of the competition. Cooper turned heads at the Under Armour All-America Game, and he has already gained the attention of the Tide staff since arriving on campus in January.

The most talented of the freshmen wide receivers is expected to enroll in June, and he’s never played the position before. Five-star athlete Eddie Williams played quarterback and safety for his high school, but the 6-foot-4 physical specimen expects to start out at receiver when he gets to Tuscaloosa. Although it’s a lofty comparison, many are saying he could be the next Julio Jones.

Nobody is sure where Cyrus Jones, a four-star athlete from Baltimore, will wind up playing for UA, but he is also expected to start out at wide receiver. He’s hoping to make a similar impact to what Maze did during his time at Alabama. Even if he doesn’t get on the field on offense his first year, expect Jones to make an impact in the return game.

Alex Scarborough contributed to this article.