Jaylen Waddle Injury not just a Blow for Alabama, But All of College Football

Longtime Alabama fans have felt this way before. 

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa at Mississippi State comes to mind. All the linebackers who left games and didn’t return over the past few years as well. With wide receivers, there’s Tyrone Prothro against Florida. 

Thankfully, Jaylen Waddle’s ankle injury doesn’t appear to be as extreme as the former or the latter, but it’s obviously bad enough. 

When former running back Kenyan Drake suffered a similar injury at Ole Miss in 2014, which teammates initially described as “scary,” Alabama didn’t hesitate to air lift him straight to doctors in Birmingham. It was the same with Waddle. 

Being helped off the field after the opening kickoff at Tennessee was one thing, but when he started slamming his hand down on the cart one pretty much knew what the outcome would be. Consequently, that awful, sickening feeling returned once again. 

“The guy’s a great player, a great teammate,” a subdued  Nick Saban said. He’s an exciting player to watch. I hate it that people in college football can’t see a great player the rest of this season.

Saban was correct, it wasn’t just a loss for Alabama, but all of college football. 

Waddle was probably the game’s most exciting player this season, although it’s difficult to asses given those who opted out and some leagues have yet to start play. In addition to being such a dynamic receiver, teams were doing everything they could not to kick or punt to him.  

Opponents were pure-out afraid of him, a quality that you just don’t see very often at this level. 

Now, just like so many of us said how fun it was to watch Prothro years ago, the same holds true for Waddle. Assuming that surgery goes well and  he’s able to recover, he’s almost certainly played his last down for the Crimson Tide. 

Waddle’s simply too good, too dynamic, and too dangerous not to be a high draft pick. 

So even though Alabama crushed Tennessee, 48-17, and Crimson Tide fans were able to light cigars for the 14th straight year, Saturday had a very somber feel to it.

“Really a sad time for me, for Jaylen Waddle and his family,” Saban said. 

That Alabama’s offense didn’t seem to blink with Waddle out, plus guard Deonte Brown sidelined (shoulder) and tight end Miller Forristall banged up, was a credit to the Crimson Tide. 

Alabama still had 587 yards of total offense, with Mac Jones throwing for 387, Najee Harris running for 96 and three touchdowns, and John Metchie III picking up the slack with seven catches for 151 yards. 

When a lot of teams would have been numb about losing a player of Waddle’s caliber Jones didn’t have an incompletion through the first quarter as the Crimson Tide jumped out to a 14-0 lead. At that point, Alabama was ahead in total yards 181-21 and already coasting.

This team will need to rely on players like them and DeVonta Smith moving forward as the full impact of

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Jaylen Waddle injury: Alabama football loses its brightest star

Good injury luck is a big factor in every football season, and Alabama has gotten none of it the last two.

Last year, the Crimson Tide lost linebacker Dylan Moses before the season and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa during it, with the latter injury contributing directly to an Iron Bowl loss that ended any hope of reaching the College Football Playoff. This year, the injured party is receiver Jaylen Waddle—merely the most explosive player in the college game.

Waddle broke his right ankle being tackled while returning the opening kickoff of Alabama’s 48–17 rout of Tennessee Saturday. You knew the injury was bad right away, when Waddle was taken to the locker room without putting any weight on his leg. Later in the half, he was loaded on an ambulance and left the stadium. Before the second half kickoff, CBS reported that coach Nick Saban said Waddle is done for the year.

He will, almost assuredly, be done for his Alabama career as well. The junior from Houston is a first-round NFL draft talent.

Saban said Waddle will fly home separately from the team with doctors, who will evaluate him and expedite his treatment, which likely will begin with surgery.

“It’s really a sad time for me for Jaylen Waddle and for his family,” Saban said. “The guy’s a great player, a great teammate, an exciting player to watch. I hate that people in college football can’t see him play more. We’re going to coach the players we have and do the best we can to try to get better.”

Waddle came into Saturday’s action ranked fourth in the nation in receiving yards per game at 139.3. His 22.28 yards per catch led the nation for all receivers with 20 or more receptions. Blinding speed helped him make a catch of at least 45 yards in every game this season, including touchdowns of 90 and 87 yards.

On a team full of offensive stars, Waddle was the brightest—and was perhaps the top Heisman Trophy candidate among non-quarterbacks. This is a big loss for Alabama, and all college football fans who enjoy explosive athletic talent.

But if there is one position where the Tide can absorb an injury, it is receiver. Alabama has become Wide Receiver University in the last decade, churning them out one after another. From Julio Jones to Amari Cooper to Calvin Ridley to Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, the talent at that position has been ridiculous over the last decade.

Despite Waddle’s brilliance, he was not Alabama’s team leader in receptions. That was DeVonta Smith, with 38. And there is sophomore John Metchie, who has become a playmaker this season after seeing few snaps last year. Metchie came into the game against Tennessee with 14 catches for 348 yards and three touchdowns, surpassing Waddle’s average reception yardage at 24.86. Afterward, the sophomore said, “We have a lot of weapons…. I think we all have faith and trust in the next man who has to step up.”

Sophomore Slade

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