Alabama has become known for its nasty defense and unwavering ground game over the past few seasons under Nick Saban. One of the less talked-about developments for the Crimson Tide offense has been the perimeter passing game.
This year the Alabama offense has been able to rely on impact freshman Amari Cooper on the outside. He has been explosive from day one on campus and is beginning to draw comparisons from the Alabama people to Julio Jones.
In 2008, Jones immediately stepped into the starting receiver role for Alabama, catching 58 passes for 924 yards and four touchdowns. He was the first freshman to earn a start at the receiver position in Alabama history.
Cooper started this year behind DeAndrew White, but when White fell to injury early in the season, Cooper had to take over the starting position. Through 13 games this year Cooper has 52 catches for 894 yards and nine touchdowns.
His numbers are scary close to Jones' during his freshman season, with Cooper producing more scores for this Alabama team over the past year.
Cooper has become the go-to receiver in the offense for A.J. McCarron when he is looking for a playmaker. Anytime there is a deep throw to the outside, Cooper is the target.
While Cooper may not match Jones in size, he can match his play for the Tide on a consistent basis. He has become a key blocker on the perimeter for the Tide offense as well, helping seal big outside runs and channeling the talents of Jones.
The Alabama offense has come to rely on the play-action pass this season with it providing key scores in big games. Against Georgia, McCarron was able to seal the win and a BCS title berth with a huge scoring toss to Cooper.
In the coming years Alabama will have elite level talent at the receiver position. Kenny Bell, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones are all players who will help shore up the receiving unit and keep Cooper free to make plays well into the future.
With one game remaining on the schedule this freshman phenom has a shot at finishing the season with over 1,000 yards receiving for Alabama.
The last time a receiver hit 1,000 yards for the Crimson Tide was in 2010. It just so happened to be Julio Jones who finished with the mark.
This year has been an amazing run for the young freshman, but one more game separates his team from a third national title in four years. A few catches in the final game and Cooper will have completed the most successful freshman season at receiver in school history.
Instead of looking for the next Julio Jones, in three years Alabama will be looking for the next Amari Cooper.