Receivers step up in Norwood's absence

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- One man's loss is another man's gain.

Kevin Norwood was on the wrong end of that equation during Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic. Alabama's leading pass-catcher coming into the weekend was forced to sit idly on the bench, waiting out the clock as an injured foot kept him sidelined.

Meanwhile, his fellow receivers didn't miss a beat.

On the third play of the game, Norwood's backup, Kenny Bell, caught a short pass on a crossing route, turned upfield and went 85 yards to the end zone.

"Norwood is like our brother," Bell said after the game. "So we just took everything and put it on our back and played for him today."

Every receiver on the two-deep depth chart had a reception against FAU, other than Norwood, who played just a few snaps before finding a spot on the bench. Bell caught his first touchdown of the year. DeAndrew White had his first game with more than one catch, connecting with quarterback AJ McCarron four times. True freshman Amari Cooper doubled his previous single-game high for receptions, and fellow rookie Cyrus Jones got his first career catch.

"That’s what our receivers can do," McCarron said following the 40-7 win over FAU. "They can make plays. I just have to get them the ball and let them do it."

The junior quarterback who lost his top four pass-catchers from a year ago has maintained throughout the offseason and into the fall that this year's crop of receivers could be the best he's seen since signing with Alabama in 2009.

"Like I told y'all earlier this year, before the Michigan game, this is the best -- no knock to the receivers we've had in the past -- to me, this is the best group of receivers we've had overall," McCarron said last week.

Said sophomore receiver Christion Jones: "The ball can go anywhere."

Christion Jones, who is tied for second on the team with seven receptions, watched as his backup, Cyrus Jones, turned a short pass into a 35-yard gain in the second half.

Saturday was the first time Cyrus Jones had been targeted for a pass after appearing on offense for the first time last week against Arkansas.

"He's just been patient the last couple of games," Bell said. "When his number was called, he just made a play, and I'm proud of him."

Like all of the young receivers, it's been about progressing each week, according to McCarron.

"You have to find something that you can keep working on," he said. "Mentally, you have to be there. I think that’s the hardest thing for young guys, to be there mentally week in and week out.

"Like I said, Cyrus has done a great job of that, and I’m not surprised he makes those plays."

Alabama coach Nick Saban wasn't surprised either. In fact, the sixth-year coach of the Crimson Tide looked at the offense and saw all that was left on the field. He saw, "three or four occasions where we could have made a catch for a big play and didn't finish."

After the game, Saban checked the stat sheet and noted the 247 yards passing.

"I guess you look at that and say that's all good," Saban said. "I certainly think we can do better. And I think it's not necessarily the quarterback I'm talking about."

Bell did plenty to help McCarron with his early touchdown. But that doesn't mean the junior wideout is letting the success go to his head, or anyone else's for that matter.

"I believe we can always get better, as a unit, as a receiving corps," he said. "We never take days off when we go to practice"