TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — One of the more position groups to watch during the 2021 Golden Flake A-Day Game will be the University of Alabama's wide receivers.
With 2020 Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith and potential first-round pick Jaylen Waddle gone, new faces will have to emerge for the Crimson Tide's new signal caller in sophomore Bryce Young.
Junior John Metchie III has been nursing a previous injury and has been unavailable this spring. Redshirt juniors Slade Bolden and Xavier Williams are the veterans of a position group that consists of three sophomores in Javon Baker, Traeshon Holden and Thaiu Jones-Bell and three freshmen in Jacorey Brooks, Christian Leary, and Agiye Hall.
Incoming freshman JoJo Earle will arrive on campus this summer.
Bolden, who spoke with the media on Tuesday afternoon, believes the young guys are starting to figure things out as the Crimson Tide enters the final week of spring practices.
“From the start of spring practice, it is always tough starting to get the concept of the offense down," Bolden said. "But I think everybody in the freshmen group has done a good job of understanding what it takes to learn the concept, and they are also putting in the effort and working hard to improve themselves, and I think they have definitely improved themselves since the beginning of the spring.”
Bolden finished 2020 with 24 catches for 270 yards and one touchdown. His 5-yard score came in Alabama's dominant 52-24 victory over Ohio State in the national championship game.
As one of the more-experienced pass catchers, Bolden shared the advice he is giving to the Crimson Tide's talented-but-young play makers.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve tried to help with them is kind of relating to them when it came, because I’ve been in their shoes," Bolden said. "I understand how it is when I try to tell them not to get frustrated, that they are going to make mistakes, they are going to mess up. That the biggest thing is just continuing to work and every day if you don’t know what you’re doing, at least go fast. Like I think at the end of the day, if you continue to push in practice and you go hard in practice, then eventually you will understand that when you know the play right, you will already know how to go fast with the play. Knowing the play is the right play, and sometimes when you don’t know what to do like you don’t think mentally that I should go hard right now.
"So that is kind of one thing that I’ve tried to help them with is just understanding that you’re going to make mistakes. It is going to happen, but the ultimate goal is just to play fast.”
Bolden has played in two A-Day games in 2018 and 2019. In the 2018 contest, he lined up as a defensive back but recorded zero stats. Two years ago, as a wide out, he caught one pass for six yards while also completing one pass attempt for 31 yards.
However, this year's game will be a somewhat return to normalcy with 50 percent capacity, or roughly 50,000 fans inside Bryant-Denny Stadium for the noon kick-off.
Bolden has embraced his role on the 2021 squad as being the old head in a room full of first-or-second year players.
“Well, you know my first A-Day experience is going to be a little different from these guys since I was on the other side of the ball playing safety, but at the end of the day, it is the same thing," Bolden said. "It is a little easier because when we’ve practiced so hard, and we’ve practiced like a game-like scenario, that it makes the games a little easier.
"So I can tell them go out there, play confident, play fast. And at the end of the day, you will get the results you want.”