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True Freshman Kevin Norwood Shows Big Play Potential

Douglas WebbCorrespondent IAugust 23, 2009

Headed into the Crimson Tide's 2009 fall camp the view behind Playboy All-American Julio Jones was hazy to say the least. Head coach Nick Saban made no secret that one of fall camp's key goals was to find one or more receivers to complement Jones in the passing game.

In 2008 Jones had a breakout freshman year accounting for over 900 receiving yards. He accomplished this feat in spite of the fact that no other receiver brought in more than 200 receiving yards. The second leading receiver actually came from the tight end corps in the form of the now-departed Nick Walker.

Then junior Mike McCoy started opposite Jones in nine games but was only able to make 16 catches for 191 yards on the season. Following McCoy was receiver Marquis Maze with 11 receptions for 137 yards; not exactly stellar numbers from either. That allowed opposing defenses to double team Jones for the entire second half of the season.

Speedy wideout Marquis Maze had a solid spring providing a glimmer of hope for Tide fans. Still, it was clear that it would be fall before any final answers came clear.

Joining the returning receivers for the fall was a talented group of incoming wideouts. Among them was Kevin Norwood out of D'lberville Mississippi. Norwood committed to the Tide fairly early in the recruiting process. The 6f oot 2 inch 180-pounder never wavered on his decision to join the Tide.

Norwood enrolled in school for the first summer session allowing him to take part in 7-on-7 passing drills during the break. That was the first time he caught the eye of new starting quarterback Greg McElroy.

"He doesn't say a whole lot; he doesn't talk much," said McElroy. "But he took a good interest in studying and understanding the offense. He understood that if he went out there at 7-on-7 and worked hard, he'd have a chance to see the field at some point this year. And he took advantages of his opportunities in the scrimmage so you have to credit him for that. He's a good, hard working guy."

McElroy was, of course, referring to Norwood's performance in the first scrimmage in which he had three receptions for 60 yards. He also caught the eye of head coach Nick Saban.

"Kevin Norwood has probably shown the most consistency of the young guys—not that he's any better than the rest of them," Saban said, "He just has a little more maturity and is able to handle the circumstances he's in, trying to learn and managing two-a-days and the heat and everything else, he's shown the most consistency probably to this point."

Norwood's performance moved him into a practice rotation with the first group. He knew that in order to stay he would have to maintain his level of play. He did just that when the Tide held its second scrimmage grabbing three passes for 85 yards. In his post scrimmage news conference Saban again noted Norwood's propensity to make the "big play."

With the preseason scrimmages over, game preparation begins in earnest. The Alabama staff will meet over the next two days and spend time breaking down film from the scrimmage. From there they will come up with a depth chart for the opener.

Norwood has done as much as a freshman possibly can to place himself in contention for playing time. Even his teammates and competition haven't hesitated to give him credit.

"Kevin Norwood made a lot of plays during the scrimmage," said wide receiver Marquis Maze. "He's been making a lot of plays since we started camp. He plays fast. He's a very good guy and just wants to learn."

There are returning players who will likely see the field first, and deservedly so. Norwood will be there waiting though. Waiting, working, and ready to take advantage in the event anyone in front of him slips up.

The guys ahead of him would do well to keep that in mind.

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