There's more to being a wide receiver than just running as fast as you can at the end zone in the hopes of catching a pass. There are a slew of extra duties that a receiver must perform, and some of them require a lot of muscle.
Alabama has a lot of offseason goals, and likely all of them will be accomplished. Bulking up the wide receiver corps is just one of many.
The receiver's primary job is to catch passes, but on the vast majority of plays they won't be doing that. Here are some key duties a receiver must perform to excel at their position.
In a system like Alabama, where they run the ball at least half the time, the receiver becomes a blocker.
The Tide was pampered for three years with Julio Jones and his supreme blocking ability. Screen passes to the running back and runs to the outside were a lot easier when Julio was bulldozing over defensive backs to spring the ball carrier to a long gain.
Without Julio, Darius Hanks became the Tide's best blocking receiver. He did a good job, but nowhere near as well as Jones did. It wasn't just talent that helped Hanks, but his size at 6'1", 185 pounds. That's a good size compared to where some of the younger guys are at right now.
Now, back to a receiver's primary purpose, catching the ball. To do that, the target must get off the line of scrimmage so that they can run their route.
Undersized receivers, no matter how speedy, can often have trouble when opposing defensive backs attempt to jam them at the line of scrimmage. A receiver that can't shuck the defender in less than two second likely won't be catching a pass.
In the SEC where many cornerbacks and safeties are well over 190 lbs., a receiver will have trouble when he's hovering around 170 lbs.
Route-running ability is very important, but a receiver can't do that if he's stuck at the line of scrimmage. Being shifty can only take a receiver so far, and sometimes he has to throw some muscle into the opponent to get loose.
Yards After Catch
Catching a pass is great, but it's what a receiver does after the catch that makes them special. Being quick and speedy helps, but sometimes the defenders have the receiver boxed in too well. That's where the brute strength comes into play.
The ability to break tackles or simple lowering a shoulder can help a receiver get those extra few yards needed for a first down.
Alabama has some very promising fresh faces in the receiver corps, but they still don't have that big guy who has eclipsed 200 lbs. other than Danny Woodson, Jr., who looks to be buried in the depth chart.
How much average weight should these guys gain?
Here's a look at the Tide's eight most promising receivers.
- Kenny Bell, 6'1", 175 lbs.
- Chris Black, 5'11", 170 lbs.
- Amari Cooper, 6'1", 175 lbs.
- Christion Jones, 5'11", 175 lbs.
- Kevin Norwood, 6'2", 193 lbs.
- Marvin Shinn, 6'3", 193 lbs.
- DeAndrew White, 6'0", 181 lbs.
- Danny Woodson, Jr., 6'1", 205 lbs.
Norwood, White and Woodson all have good weight to accomplish what they need to do. The rest could certainly use some added muscle. Shinn appears to have good weight, but at his height he is quite thin.
All of these players have all the tools to succeed at Alabama, but their job will be a lot easier after they bulk up.
If anyone can pack the pounds on these guys it's the Tide's strength and conditioning coach, Scott Cochran.
It's tricky though, as adding weight can have a debilitating effect on the player's speed. There must be a fine balance between the two.
Most of the receivers need to only add five to 10 pounds to their frame, but others could manage a lot more. Shinn, Norwood, Bell and Cooper could add 15 or more without hindering their speed.
The goal of bulking up the receivers isn't a daunting task, but it something that needs to be done and will likely be accomplished before the season begins. A lot of it will fall upon the players themselves during the offseason.
Scout.com doesn't always get it right, but they were right when they listed the following player's "areas for improvement."
- Chris Black: Ability to beat jams, size, strength.
- Amari Cooper: Strength.
- Christion Jones: Size, tackling ability (he was projected to play corner).
- Kevin Norwood: Blocking ability.
- Marvin Shinn: Blocking ability.
- DeAndrew White: Ability to beat jams, blocking ability, size.
These areas for improvement can be addressed with a full spectrum of training, but one of the best ways to get started is to hit the weights. Beating jams, breaking tackles, blocking defenders and being an overall terror on the field begins and ends with a players dedication in the weight room.
Not everyone can be Julio Jones, but these eight young Crimson Tide players will be well on their way to another crystal football in no time, and it all starts in the weight room.