Cooper, Alabama receivers generating buzz

Alabama’s receiving corps has one star and an impressive

supporting cast.

Now, it’s up to Amari Cooper & Co. to live up to a preseason

buzz ordinarily reserved for the top-ranked Crimson Tide’s

tailbacks and defense.

Cooper produced one of the best seasons by a Alabama receiver as

a freshman and is joined by a mix of established veterans and

highly recruited youngsters to give quarterback AJ McCarron a deep

assemblage of targets.

”It’s going to be one of the most spectacular receiver groups

that have come around in a long time,” deep threat Kenny Bell

said. ”We all push each other. We don’t take it for granted that

one’s better than the other, we just try to push each other.

Everybody out there’s just taken it upon themselves to be a leader

and push each other.”

Even former players are raving about the group.

”Probably the best wide receiving corps Alabama’s ever had is

going to be in Tuscaloosa this year,” said Jay Barker, quarterback

of the Tide’s 1992 national championship team.

McCarron said the chemistry with the receivers is the best he’s

had.

The collection of talent is especially notable because Alabama

hasn’t exactly been Wide Receiver U. Atlanta Falcons star Julio

Jones, the No. 6 overall pick in 2011, was the first Tide receiver

drafted since fifth-rounder Triandos Luke seven years earlier.

There’s only one bona fide star entering the season but all the

returnees have been productive. The depth showed when the passing

game continued to thrive after Bell, DeAndrew White and freshman

Chris Black were lost to injuries in 2012.

Cooper racked up 1,000 receiving yards and a school-record 11

touchdowns on 59 catches. His numbers were slightly better than

Jones’ record-setting freshman season, and Cooper added two

touchdowns in the BCS championship game win over Notre Dame.

The 6-foot-1, 202-pounder produced the fourth-best yardage total

by a Tide receiver and had 29 catches of 15-plus yards.

Cooper has been limited in practice with a strained foot but

produced 182 yards and three touchdowns on four catches in

Alabama’s first scrimmage.

”He is absolutely amazing,” Tide cornerback John Fulton said.

”Some of the stuff he does, I have no idea where he learned it

from, but he’s absolutely amazing.”

Cooper has plenty of help, too. Alabama’s five returning

receivers who played last year have a collective 128 games and 44

starts while producing 3,092 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Kevin Norwood has 144 yards in the last two national

championship games while Bell is averaging 19.8 yards on 36

catches. White started the first five games last season before his

knee injury.

That doesn’t include the highly touted Black, who was expected

to play last season before a preseason shoulder injury. Coach Nick

Saban pondered giving up Black’s redshirt for the Southeastern

Conference and BCS championship games if necessary.

”He’s going to be a great receiver,” Bell said. ”Y’all just

watch out for him.”

Five-star recruit Robert Foster and fellow freshman Raheem

Falkins are joining the mix, creating plenty of competition.

”Not one receiver is letting another receiver slack,” Cooper

said. ”We’ve been pushing each other every day. We’ve been pushing

the young guys to learn the system, and it’s been very fun.”

Sophomore Cyrus Jones, a five-star receiving prospect who played

some last season, has moved to cornerback.

Saban always insists he seeks a balanced offense, and the Tide

has only a 124-yard edge in rushing yards versus passing in

claiming the past two national titles. The offensive line underwent

a makeover, but with tailback T.J. Yeldon and the receivers, there

are plenty of skill players.

”I think this offense could be great,” H-back Jalston Fowler

said. ”I mean really good. We’ve got weapons everywhere. I think

you could take any guy out and not miss a heartbeat.”