Alabama football: What should we expect from Calvin Ridley?

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31: Calvin Ridley
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31: Calvin Ridley /

The Alabama Crimson Tide have one of the best wide receivers in the entire country on their roster. But how are they going to use him in 2017?

We all know about the defensive accolades of the Crimson Tide, but Alabama is quietly becoming “Wide Receiver U”. Julio Jones and Amari Cooper are already two of the best wideouts in the NFL in their young careers, and Calvin Ridley looks to be the next Crimson Tide receiver destined for NFL greatness.

After racking up 89 catches for 1,045 yards and 7 touchdowns as a true freshman, Ridley took a step back last season with 72 receptions for 769 yards and 7 touchdowns last season. His yards per reception went from 11.7 in 2015 to 10.7 in 2016, which is virtually the same. That shows that Ridley was not less effective in 2016, he was just wasn’t getting the ball as much.

We all know talent is not the issue. Ridley is clearly one of the best receivers in college football. projects Ridley to be the second wide receiver taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. So what was the problem last season?

TUSCALOOSA, AL – NOVEMBER 19: Calvin Ridley (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
TUSCALOOSA, AL – NOVEMBER 19: Calvin Ridley (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The easy answer is Jalen Hurts. We all know the type of athlete Hurts is. He was the 2016 SEC offensive player of the year as a true freshman. He threw for 2,780 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions through the air, while running for 954 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. But it was his inability to connect on the deep ball that has Crimson Tide fans concerned. did a story earlier this month about Hurts’ completion numbers. On throws of 10 yards or less, Hurts was 73-for-108 (67.6 percent) for 9 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. But on throws of 20 yards or more, he completed just 20 of 62 attempts (32.3 percent) and threw 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

Ridley is the definition of a homer threat at wide receiver. He can take the top off of a defense, but if he doesn’t have a quarterback that can make the throws, his skillset is effectively useless.

But even with Hurts’ flaws as a passer, there’s no reason Calvin Ridley shouldn’t be a bigger part of the game plan. Ridley had fewer than five touches four times as a freshman, and three of those were in his first four career games. Then as a sophomore, he had more than five touches only five times,  including 6 receptions for 42 yards combined in their two College Football Playoff games last season.

Brian Daboll

Alabama Crimson Tide Football
Alabama Crimson Tide Football /

Alabama Crimson Tide Football

That’s where new offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, comes in. While he’s made multiple stops in the NFL as an offensive coordinator, and he’s been on Nick Saban and Bill Belichick’s staffs at different times, the jury is still out on Daboll.

He did not have much success as offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, and Kansas City Chiefs. But in his defense, his quarterbacks at those stops were the likes of Chad Pennington, Kellen Clemens, Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson, Colt McCoy, Matt Moore, Chad Henne, and the list of mediocre quarterbacks goes on.

His number one priority for the Crimson Tide offense should be getting Ridley more involved. Alabama has behemoths up front and they always know how to run the ball. If Daboll is going to earn his money, he’s going to have to make sure this passing attack is just as explosive and innovative as it was under Lane Kiffin. Say what you want about Kiffin, but that guy knows how to coach offense.

I mean, if this doesn’t get you fired up for Florida Atlantic football, I don’t know what will.

But back to the point. If Alabama is going to lead the SEC in scoring again in 2017, Calvin Ridley should be the focal point of this offense.