As a coach, student, and fan of wide receiver play, I had one college game and one game only prioritized to watch last weekend: Alabama at Ole Miss. Nevermind the fact that it was the No.1 ranked team and defending national champions in Alabama going on the road to face a 2-0 team in Ole Miss, a program that has given Alabama issues in the past, the wide receiver play promised to be elite.
While the game was a total letdown as Alabama powered their way to a 62-7 victory, and the receiver play was held back on one side, the talent and depth at the position showed throughout four quarters.
For Ole Miss and its talented trio of senior Damarkus Lodge, and juniors A.J. Brown and DK Metcalf, it was an opportunity to face a talented secondary and prove themselves to NFL scouts. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu had been locked in for their first two games, showing accuracy and improved touch on deep balls.
For Alabama and its talented trio of true sophomores in Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, and Henry Ruggs III had a chance to light up the scoreboard against a weaker SEC defense. While not yet draft-eligible, all three are future pros. With talented passer Tua Tagovailoa getting the majority of throwing reps, it was an opportunity for the young players to break out in a nationally televised game.
DK Metcalf wasted no time getting going, scoring on the first play from scrimmage. Metcalf gave an outside nod, moved laterally and dismissed the cornerback’s jam with a violent swipe, released inside and stacked, extended for the ball, kept his balance, and outran the defender for the touchdown. The encouraging part of the play was the way Metcalf got his palm right on the elbow of the defensive back, controlling his arm and knocking him off balance. The nuance he continues to show at the line of scrimmage is a major weapon, and his athleticism to finish the play may be unparalleled in all of college football.
Unfortunately for Ole Miss, from that point forward it was a struggle for their offense. Jordan Ta’amu was pressured all night and struggled with accuracy. Throughout the game he was sacked four times, threw two interceptions, and was an abysmal 7-22 passing. A.J. Brown found some openings over the middle, but was not consistently fitting into voids and was mostly blanketed. While he would be the beneficiary of a 13 yard and 10 yard reception, Brown had a quiet night as Alabama dominated the line of scrimmage.
Damarkus Lodge is usually a consistent separator in his route running, and was open a few times only to have Ta’amu miss or unable to get a clean pass off. Coming off an injury, this was a tougher night for Lodge as well.
Fortunately for the viewer, the Alabama side didn’t disappoint. Just over 5 minutes into the game, Jerry Jeudy was given a free release in the slot and his speed took over, beating the Rebel defense deep and Tagovailoa hit him for the 79 yard touchdown.
Later on, Ole Miss pressed Jeudy in the slot with no safety help to his side. This proved costly as Jeudy beat the defensive back on the slot fade and Jalen Hurts put in it his breadbasket. Jeudy’s “dead leg” release allowed him to win the rep, as his inside threaten was enough to force the defensive back into a rigid transition.
Henry Ruggs III got on the scoreboard as well, taking a screen from Hurts and bursting through defenders into the endzone. Ruggs’ speed is his top weapon, and his swift feet and knee drive prevent defensive backs from matching his vertically.
DeVonta Smith wasn’t left out, as the national championship hero continued to show how smooth of a route runner he is. Smith had three catches and almost scored a touchdown, but it was overturned after review. Smith’s route running is probably the best on the Crimson Tide side, as he attacks leverage and breaks with ease. Despite being the only Tide receiver of their top three to not record a touchdown, Smith was consistently open throughout the night.
While it was somewhat of a shame that the Alabama defense dominating the line of scrimmage and disrupted Ole Miss’ offensive rhythm, the overall wide receiver play was quality on both sides. We won’t see a game with the depth and quality of college wide receivers again this season, so cherish this film.