Kevin Norwood leads hungry group of WRs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Kevin Norwood leaped over the Honey Badger on Jan. 9 and made it known to the world how far he planned to go. The picture-perfect catch over LSU's Tyrann Mathieu was a seminal moment in Alabama's win at the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans, and could prove to be just as dramatic a moment in the junior receiver's career.

"As you saw in the championship game, he could be one of those guys that can be a great receiver at Alabama," said cornerback Dee Milliner of his teammate. "He's been working this summer and coming now to the fall camp, he's working to become one of those guys that stands out at wide receiver."

Milliner said Norwood is easy to overlook at first, but like his catch over Mathieu, eventually you'll get the picture.

"He has great hands," Milliner said of Norwood. "You'll probably underestimate him when you line up in front of him, but when you get going he's got great routes and when the ball comes he can go up and get it or go down and get it."

Norwood said he has spent the offseason getting stronger and improving his route running as he prepares to battle for the starting job at wide receiver. Last season, he was buried on depth chart by seniors Marquis Maze, Brandon Gibson and Brad Smelley. This time around, those players are gone and it's Norwood's time to develop into a leader on offense.

"Me and Kenny [Bell] have been looking forward to this," Norwood said. "We’ve waited, basically, three or four seasons now to be leaders."

But, according to Norwood, who said he's in the mix in the return game as well, don't expect the job to be handed to both veteran receivers on a silver platter. The competition is just now beginning to ramp up as Alabama enters its first full week of practice.

"It's a battle," Norwood said. "We're basically getting ready to put the pads on tomorrow so we can go out and play up to Coach [Nick] Saban's speed."

Several young receivers are making waves at fall camp in Tuscaloosa. Sophomores Christion Jones and DeAndrew White saw the field in 2011-12 and have made a push, as have true freshmen Amari Cooper, Chris Black, Eddie Williams and Cyrus Jones.

"They're all standing out right now," Norwood said of his fellow receivers. "They're all doing really good. Like I said, we just got to get better as time goes."

Norwood added that Williams has been impressive in the early going. The former high school quarterback turned receiver has caught Norwood's eye.

"He's quick, he's explosive, got great hands," Norwood said of Williams. "He runs the routes well. I'm looking forward to seeing him play."

"Eddie is one of the bigger, physical receivers at 6-4," Milliner added. "He's a big guy, someone we can use with the height on him, so he can get the long ball.

"With Cyrus, he's a great speed guy we can use around. He can be at the slot, or out wide. He can even get at running back sometimes if you want to. He's a great athlete.

"Both of those guys are working hard."

With less than two weeks of practice under their belts, the receiving corps is just now beginning to take shape. Depth appears to be the unit's biggest strength, but time will tell how the youngsters pick up offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier's playbook and adjust to the speed of the college game.

"We all can contribute," Norwood said. "We're all practicing really hard right now. We're just trying to learn, get back into the groove of everything."