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Alabama Receivers Form an All Time Group

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Tua Tagovailoa's production is the new status quo. The nation's most dynamic collection of wide receivers play a key role.

Fresh off one of college football's most iconic throws ever, winning a national title as a freshman, Tua Tagovailoa was an absolute revelation last fall. He promptly set a new FBS passer rating record as a sophomore, establishing a final mark of 199.44 after 3,966 yards and 43 touchdowns at 11.2 yards per attempt. Tagovailoa pushed the ball downfield at an almost-unprecedented rate last season as no other SEC signal caller the last half-decade has averaged even 9.5 yards a throw. His production is the new status quo.

The nation's most dynamic collection of wide receivers play a key role.

All back for 2019, Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, Henry Ruggs and DeVonta Smith each return after averaging at least 16 yards per reception this past year. Five SEC wideouts recorded at least 40 catches and five touchdowns with that yard-per-catch average last fall; four of them played in Tuscaloosa, not including now-NFL tight end Irv Smith, Jr. In addition to Tagovailoa's remarkable successes, Alabama perimeter playmakers have earned a place in history as well. This group is as good as it gets.

Jeudy, the Crimson Tide's second-ever Biletnikoff Award winner, had a season that, quite frankly, you simply just don't see: 68 receptions, 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns. He is the only Power Five player this millennium with 1,300 yards, 14 scores and more than 19.1 yards per catch in a single year. Jeudy finished the season with touchdown grabs in four consecutive contests, including five receptions for 139 yards and a score in the College Football Playoff Final versus Clemson.  

Waddle, as a true freshman emerging for the then-defending national champions, showed a veteran knack for making the most of each and every opportunity. At 18.8 yards per catch, Waddle consistently made defenders miss in the open field, often extending plays with highlight moves. He, along with Jeudy, was one of just five players in the country with 45 receptions, seven scores and 18 yards a grab. For good measure, Waddle also averaged over 14.5 yards per punt return.

Big plays were the norm for Ruggs in 2018. He, as well as Jeudy again, was one of  only eight receivers nationally with 45 catches and 11 touchdowns and at least 16 yards per reception. His aforementioned scores tied Deebo Samuel for second in the SEC behind Jeudy. Ruggs proved rock-solid in the Iron Bowl last season, catching two touchdown passes in a victory sprint past rival Auburn. In the College Football Playoff, Ruggs scored a touchdown in the semifinal triumph over Oklahoma.

Already a legend as he caught Tagovailoa's game-winning heave in the national championship game two years ago, Smith added to his legacy this past season. He finished his sophomore year with 19 receptions for 267 yards and two scores over Alabama's final four games: the Iron Bowl, SEC Championship Game, Orange Bowl, where Smith topped the 100-yard mark, and national championship game. His 16.5 yards per catch ranked third on the team, but fourth among all SEC returnees.   

Ready for more, Tagovailoa, along with Jeudy, Waddle, Ruggs and Smith, form a passing game the likes of which college football has never before seen. In some ways, they are just getting started.  

Tagovailoa is a record-setting generational talent. More records appear to be on the horizon. In that regard, Alabama's wide receivers are off and running as well. 

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports