Ridley is No. 2 Alabama's latest freshman receiving star

It only took one preseason scrimmage for Calvin Ridley to deem himself ready for the Southeastern Conference.

No. 2 Alabama's freshman wide receiver has certainly proven his assessment correct while living up to the recruiting hype.

Ridley has followed in the footsteps of current NFL players Julio Jones and Amari Cooper by becoming the Crimson Tide's go-to receiver not long after arriving on campus.

''After that first scrimmage in practice, I felt like I could do this,'' Ridley said. ''I felt like I was doing good in practice. And I knew if I could do it in practice against this defense, I could do it against anyone.''

So far, so good. Ridley, who arrived as the nation's top receiver prospect, has put up comparable first-year numbers to both Jones and Cooper - eventual top 10 NFL draft picks - going into the Dec. 31 semifinal game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas against Michigan State (No. 3 CFP).

Ridley and ArDarius Stewart have been the favorite targets of quarterback Jake Coker. Both had big games in the Southeastern Conference championship game against Florida, especially Ridley.

His 102-yard performance included a 55-yard catch with a couple of defenders around him.

Now, Ridley has more receptions (75) than either Jones or Cooper had as freshmen. His 893 yards also leads the team and leaves him with a solid shot at overtaking Cooper (1,000) and Jones (924).

Cooper said he's been watching Ridley since the freshman was an Alabama recruit.

''He's awfully smooth, really fast, great hands,'' Cooper said.

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder is physically more similar to Cooper, now a rookie with the Oakland Raiders, than Jones. The two met on Ridley's recruiting visit, and the freshman has watched plenty of Cooper's practice and game film. He finds any comparisons flattering but leaves it at that.

''It's amazing,'' Ridley said. ''I don't really pay attention to it, but I'll take it. The guy's great.''

His attitude, according to fellow freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick: ''Calvin is Calvin.''

That's been good enough so far. Ridley and Fitzpatrick, a defensive back, have both made huge impacts in their freshman seasons. It's no real surprise since both were among the nation's most heralded recruits. But they've sustained the good play.

''These two guys are special because they've never skipped a beat,'' Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ''They've always been able to focus on what they need to do to go out and do their job well in a game and make very good plays. Those two guys have been fantastic additions to our team this year, and their contribution has been very, very important to us.''

They're also well acquainted, having gone against each other in camps since their junior years of high school. Both said the battles were pretty evenly split.

''He's a real quick receiver,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''He runs real clean routes and he has that long speed. Once he gets downhill, he's rolling.''

Ridley said the biggest adjustment to college ball was realizing he wasn't necessarily going to always be the fastest guy on the field. It hasn't been much of a problem.

His role increased significantly when starting receiver Robert Foster went down with a shoulder injury that required surgery. Two games later, Ridley broke out. He had 120 yards against Georgia and 140 the following week versus Arkansas.

And Alabama had its primary target. No Tide receiver had more than 73 receiving yards in a game before Georgia, when Ridley had a 50-yard catch and a 45-yard touchdown. He followed that up with an 81-yard touchdown against the Razorbacks.

Well before those games, Fitzpatrick said he and Ridley put in extra work and time with coaches to make this immediate impact. The motivation was simple.

''I just didn't want to sit,'' Ridley said. ''I just wanted to compete. I just went out there every day and did the best I could do. I'm happy it paid off.''


AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow in Oakland, California, contributed to this report.


AP College Football site: collegefootball.ap.org