Calvin Ridley’s freshman season was nothing short of impressive. He had 89 receptions for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns last year, and Ridley feels like he’s gotten better over the offseason.
“I’m just way smarter than last year,” Ridley said. “I know more than I did when I was a freshman. I just know my route running better and my plays better, my depth on the route, my alignment, I just know the right place to be at now.”
Ridley also said that he spent a lot of time this offseason working on his blocking, an area of his game that he felt needed the work.
“I’ve been working on that and coach has been helping me just with putting my hands inside of people, getting after bigger guys, safeties and stuff like that.”
Teammate and fellow receiver ArDarius Stewart helps set the tone during practice, and has become known as a solid blocker at the receiver position. His commitment to one of the position’s less glamorous sides inspires Ridley and his teammates to step up their game.
“Stew gets after people. When I see him do that at practice, if I see Stew get after somebody, right away in my head I know I have to do something,” Ridley said. “I know Rob [Foster] feels the same way, [Derek] Kief, Cam [Sims], everybody feels the same way. It helps a lot when somebody sets the tone, we all start picking it up.”
Linebacker Reuben Foster feels like he’s improved his game in similar ways. Foster has been known as a guy who can deliver the big hit since he stepped foot in Tuscaloosa, but that transition to a more complete tackler hasn’t been easy for him. With Reggie Ragland now in the NFL, Foster needs to make the transition from a hard hitter to a more complete player.
Foster struggled early in his career with stingers, quick stabbing pains that are common in high-contact sports. The stingers made it difficult for him to stay on the field, but he feels he has become a stronger tackler.
“It was stressful at first, but I came along and had guys that pat me on the shoulder and told me it would be okay. I was down bad but they brought me back up,” Foster said. “Leading with your shoulder, see what you hit, that’s what coach has built in my mind. Just see what I hit, lead with in the shoulder and explode out of your hips.”
Part of his development into a player that can play sideline to sideline has involved slimming down. Foster said that he played last season at around 240 pounds, but is currently down to 225 pounds. He feels his leaner build will help him make more plays. He also lost the weight because of some knee problems he has had.
“The game is getting faster, so [I’m working on] getting more lean, building more muscle, speed, agility, footwork,” Foster said. “I’m more explosive. It might sound strange, 225 at linebacker but it feels great. Knees not hurting, back not hurting, it feels great.”
To help get down to 225 pounds, Foster has changed his meal plan. He’s eating healthier and being more conscientious of the timing and frequency of his meals.
Foster is also now a senior, and trying to fill Ragland’s shoes in more than just playmaking. Ragland was a true leader on defense, organizing the defense before plays. That duty now falls to Foster, and he has embraced his new status as a leader.
” It feels great, knowing somebody has trust in me to give me that leadership role. It feels great that the boys, they feel comfortable with me telling them what to do,” Foster said. “It feels great knowing what to do. Like you don’t have any anxiety, nothing. You feel free. You love the game of football. You worship it. It’s great. You just can line your boys up anywhere and just get the plan.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports