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