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Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Forecasting the Tide: Wide receiver

By Alex Scarborough

Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday until national signing day, TideNation will review each position and look at who figures to start, who could rise up the depth chart and who might be on the way. Today we’ll look at the wide receivers. 

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Even with a national championship in hand, the Alabama coaching staff must look back at the passing game and wonder, "What if?"

What if DeAndrew White hadn't torn up his knee against Ole Miss? Would Amari Cooper have won the starting job and become AJ McCarron's go-to target if he had?

What if Kenny Bell didn't break his leg against Auburn? What would his breakaway speed have meant in a close game against Georgia the following week?

What if Chris Black hadn't injured his shoulder during preseason camp? What if he wasn't lost for the season right away? What could the lightning-quick freshman have done?

What if White, Bell and Black had never fallen? What would the depth have looked like then?

These are all questions that can't be answered. The 2012-13 season has come and gone. We'll have to wait until spring practice to begin before we can start piecing together what it means for next season.

Robert Foster
Robert Foster is the No. 2-ranked receiver in the 2013 class, but immediate playing time could be hard to come by because Alabama is stacked with returning talent at the position.
Battling for No. 1: One thing is set in stone: Cooper is going to be a starter until he goes to the NFL. The rest, though, is somewhat uncertain. Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones both had fine seasons, but can they hold off White and Black? Jones had his fair share of drops and mental errors in the return game. While the latter might not affect his performance at receiver, it might sway coaches confidence in him. Black is a similar type of receiver who can play the slot with his high-end speed and good maneuverability. It's unlikely Norwood would be pulled for White, especially considering no one knows how he'll come back from his knee surgery, but don't put it out of the realm of possibility.

Strength in numbers: The paragraph above should say it all about what kind of depth Alabama will start with next season. Now throw in Bell, Cyrus Jones and Marvin Shinn.  Bell is a dynamic playmaker with his ability to stretch the field, and while Shinn didn't do much the first half of the season, he showed against Notre Dame with two catches that he can make plays. Cyrus Jones is the wildcard. He has top-tier quickness and could end up taking over for Christion Jones in the return game. With so much talent at receiver and a lack of depth at cornerback, could the staff consider moving Cyrus Jones to the defensive side? Keep in mind he's was listed on the official roster as an athlete for quite some time and he did play corner in high school.

Help on the way: We've counted eight incumbent receivers so far. That would be enough for any quarterback to blush at. Now let's add two more wideouts in the 2013 signing class in Alabama commitments Robert Foster and Raheem Falkins. Foster is a superb talent at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds. The No. 2 receiver in the ESPN 150 has the frame and quickness to succeed at the next level. Falkins isn't as highly touted as his counterpart -- the four-star is the No. 41 receiver in the country, according to ESPN -- but he is no slouch. At 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, the Louisiana native will cause matchup problems with cornerbacks. He can catch the ball, too. As our analyst put it, "Falkins is a vacuum -- he catches everything thrown in his area code."