Jaylen Waddle going down on the Alabama football opening kickoff did not affect the game’s outcome. Going forward, the Tide has no comparable replacement.
An Alabama football kickoff return gone awry looms large to Crimson Tide championship goals. On Saturday’s opening kickoff, Jaylen Waddle could have, in retrospect should have, taken a fair catch. His decision to return the kick and the ankle injury that quickly followed may pivot the Alabama football season.
Slade Bolden replaced Waddle and played well. As every Crimson Tide fan knows, there is no replacement for Waddle capable of giving the Tide what the sure-handed, fast and elusive Waddle provides.
Just after the second quarter ended, it was learned Wadle incurred a season-ending injury.
It is possible he will never suit up for the Crimson Tide again. The oft-used phrase ‘next man up’ does not apply and that is no slam against Slade Bolden.
The Alabama football offense can still be very good without Waddle, but it will be different. Realistically, the Crimson Tide’s passing attack will be less explosive and less capable of winning shootouts against top teams.
Opposing defenses will be able to double DeVonta Smith frequently. It may have been a coincidence but Smith caught seven passes against the Vols, well below his recent output. Steve Sarkisian will have more than tweaking necessary to adjust his offense to no Waddle.
Even without Waddle, the Crimson Tide offense over-powered the Vols. The Tide finished with 587 yards and between Mac Jones and Bryce Young, threw for over 400 yards. Sophomore wide receiver, John Methchie filled in well for Waddle, though not in the slot. Metchie caught seven passes for 151 yards.
DeVonta Smith is a great receiver, one of the Crimson Tide’s best-ever. John Metchie is suddenly emerging as another top threat. As good as the pair are, they don’t have the after-the-catch skills of Jaylen Waddle. Waddle was the best in CFB once he caught a pass.
There were things to celebrate Saturday in Knoxville. The Crimson Tide made it 14-straight against the Vols. Nick Saban moved to 23-0 against his former assistants. Several young Tide players got much-needed game action. Add all those things together and they don’t make up for the loss of the Tide’s most dynamic player. Teams don’t lose Top 10 NFL Draft guys without a major impact.
Alabama football fans will sorely miss seeing Jaylen Waddle in Crimson and White. We are left to hope for his full recovery and great NFL career.