Determining if Alabama has found a worthy replacement for Amari Cooper

Recently coach Nick Saban said he envisioned three wide receivers developing into regular playmakers for Alabama: Robert Foster, ArDarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley. Foster initially seemed to take on that role, but once he went down with an injury Ridley saw more action and he took full advantage of it.

Ridley seems to be filling the void that Amari Cooper left behind. Saban may hate comparisons, but most people tend to like them.

Rec.      Yds.AvgTDs
A. Cooper (2012)            59           1000        16.9        11
C. Ridley (six games)   31       385           12.4            3

Ridley is already on pace to catch more passes than Cooper did in freshman year and he is on pace to finish with over 800 yards over 13 games. 

Those numbers might look good, but Cooper has still got a decent edge on Ridley in the stats that matter the most yards and touchdowns. Perhaps a better comparison would be to look at both players' first six games. 

A. Cooper (First six games)            21              263             12.5             3
C. Ridley (Six games)3138512.43

Now the stats tell a different story. Cooper's first game with at least 100 yards receiving did not come until his seventh outing. Ridley on the other hand, has finished with over 100 yards the last two times he saw the field. 

A majority of Cooper's yards and touchdowns came in the last half of the season, and there's nothing to suggest that Ridley won't follow suit. In fact if Ridley continues to play like he did the last two weeks he would finish the season with 1,295 yards and 10 touchdowns. 

This would be a nice place to end the comparison between the two players except the above charts don't take the offensive coordinator into account. 

Lane Kiffin's offense tends to run more plays than former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier's did and Kiffin also tends to pass the ball around a bit more. In 2012 Alabama's starting quarterback AJ McCarron attempted 314 passes in 13 games. So far this year Alabama's quarterbacks (both Jake Coker and Cooper Bateman) have attempted 212. 

There's no easy way to compare the impact that other factors like the relative skill of the quarterback have on the comparison, but Cooper did play one season under Kiffin.

A. Cooper (2014)                   124                    1727                 13.9                  16
C. Ridley (six games)3138512.43

Kiffin's impact on Cooper's production is obvious, but how how did is production increase as he learned the new offense. Looking at his first six games under Kiffin might shed some light on that.  

A. Cooper (First six
games under Kiffin)                        
54                    768                  14.2             5

The last two charts argue that Ridley (even if his stat line matches the output predicted by his last two games) is no where near as productive as Cooper. Once again though Cooper was playing his third season. He was older, had more experience and was likely stronger.

Only time will tell if Ridley's career at Alabama will be comparable or even statistically better than Cooper's was, but the freshman has gotten the start he needs to make it a photo finish. 

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