- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama freshman wideout Chris Black will be on the sidelines and ready to play Saturday afternoon when the No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide face No. 3 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, according to coach Nick Saban.
The staff had been weighing whether or not to burn the speedy receiver's redshirt before this week. A number of injuries at the position, most notably the loss of DeAndrew White and Kenny Bell for the season, forced the staff's hand.
"The decision was made with him and his family, not just by me," Saban said on Wednesday. "Chris wants to play and can help the team by playing."
Black, who was expected to contribute this season before injuring his shoulder during fall camp, has practiced in contact drills all week in preparation of the conference title game. The 5-foot-11, 178-pound product of Jacksonville, Fla., was an early enrollee and completed spring camp.
"We're trying to get Chris ready to play and he's had good carry over from what he knew before," Saban said.
If Black plays, he would be the fourth freshman receiver in the rotation, joining Amari Cooper, Cyrus Jones and Marvin Shinn. Cooper, another top-10 receiver in the 2012 signing class, has become a starter alongside junior Kevin Norwood and sophomore Christion Jones. Cooper leads all receivers in catches (45), yards (767) and touchdowns (eight) this season.
Black's addition would make up for the loss of Bell, who went down with a broken leg against Auburn last week. Bell filled in at multiple positions for the Crimson Tide, coming in to spell Norwood on the outside and Jones in the slot.
"Oh, great player for us," cornerback Dee Milliner said of Black, as the Tide's top defensive back has gone against Black often in practice. "Wish he could have played for us this season. He could’ve been another receiver we could have used very much. … He’s been practicing against us for, like, the last three weeks -- doing things, giving us a great look of different receivers from different teams. He does a great job with that. Hopefully, if he can play he’ll be a big step for us."
Norwood said Black coming back this late in the season would be "very difficult" because he hasn't practiced with the team as much as others. Still, he remained optimistic Black could make a contribution.
"With his mentality, I'm pretty sure he can come away with something," Norwood said.
5dEdward Aschoff and Alex Scarborough
5dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf