TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Comparisons aren’t Nick Saban’s thing.
They’re not fair, Alabama's 65-year-old head coach will say with some degree of annoyance in his voice, noting how they don’t take into account the different circumstances from one season to another. It doesn’t matter if he’s comparing one set of star linebackers to another, like the duo of Dont’a Hightower and Rolando McClain or C.J. Mosley and Reggie Ragland, he’s not willing to play the game. He just doesn’t like it.
“Look, I don’t compare anything to anything,” Saban told reporters a month ago.
But Saban’s hard-and-fast rule doesn’t always extend to his players. Case in point: Jerry Jeudy. The freshman receiver has been on campus less than four months and already he’s being hailed as the next Calvin Ridley. Keep in mind that Ridley, a junior, is still on the team.
“He’s similar to Calvin,” said cornerback Anthony Averett, “they’re very similar. That’s who I compare him to.”
“The only thing different is probably Jerry Jeudy is little bit taller than Calvin. That’s it,” said fellow receiver Cam Sims. “They’re both nightmares for a DB.”
Even Ridley sees the similarities.
In fact, he was one of the first players to make the comparison, and that was after one day of practice.
“I think Jerry is like me when I first got here,” Ridley said, knowing full well that he was referring to his freshman year in which is racked up 89 catches, 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns. “He’s really good.”
Ridley not only wants Jeudy to put up similar numbers this season, but he also wants him to surpass them.
“That’s my boy,” Ridley said.
With good reason. Ridley and Jeudy grew up in the same area of South Florida, played in the same youth football leagues and hung out with many of the same people.
Even when Ridley would play street ball with Jeudy’s older brother, he was always there.
“I already knew he was going to be good,” Ridley said.
Calvin Ridley good? That would be something.
Remember that as a freshman Ridley was compared to Amari Cooper, who again was from the same part of South Florida, played in the same leagues and they knew one another. They were both roughly 6-foot-1, too.
Thanks to an injury, Ridley entered the starting lineup early as a true freshman in 2015 and quickly became one of the SEC’s best young receivers.
Now, less than three years later, Jeudy could make it three South Florida receivers in a row to make it big at Alabama. He’s one inch taller than Ridley, but they both have a similar game based on elusiveness. They get out of their breaks with such ease and fluidity. Like Cooper, there’s a certain effortlessness to their games.
When Saban spoke about his receivers early this spring, he mentioned only one rookie.
“Jerry Jeudy has really done well,” he said.
With a deep group of receivers, including Ridley, Sims, Robert Foster and Trevon Diggs, it won’t be easy for Jeudy to crack the starting lineup. Given Alabama’s move to the spread in recent years, it’s not unlikely that he could find himself playing in meaningful situations.
What’s more, Diggs is experimenting on defense this spring, and Foster is a wild card with tremendous upside but very little in the way of production after three years on campus.
Like with Ridley, an injury or permanent position change could open up the door for Jeudy.
If that happens, don’t be surprised if you see a familiar receiver catching passes on the outside for Alabama. It’s not Ridley or Cooper. It’s Jerry Jeudy, the next in line.