Alabama Football: Where the Tide goes for a new No. 4 receiver

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Alabama football
Alabama football /

Alabama football will spend the next few days challenging previously, little-used wide receivers to step up and earn a spot in the post-Waddle rotation.

Until Monday, when Jaylen Waddle’s injury is examined in Birmingham, Alabama football fans are holding out hope he might return for a CFB Playoff game. According to Nick Saban on Saturday night, Jaylen’s injury is believed to be a “high ankle sprain and a fracture.” Saban compared the injury to the one Kenyan Drake incurred in his Crimson Tide career.

Until more is known, it can only be said, following surgery, Waddle is unlikely to play again this season. Unlikely, but theoretically not impossible, though a too-early return could jeopardize his NFL Draft stock.

Saying the young man will be missed by teammates, coaches and fans does not come close to describing his importance to the Alabama football program.

As we said shortly after the game, Waddle’s skills are so extraordinary, suggesting ‘next man up’ is enough to replace him is ludicrous. Slade Bolden will move into Waddle’s slot receiver role. Any comparison of Bolden to Waddle is unfair. Bolden is a good athlete, both skillful and smart. He did well against the Vols. But he is no Jaylen Waddle. No other Crimson Tide receiver is either.

The loss of Waddle is not a reason for panic by Tide fans. Nor does it require wholesale changes in Sark’s offensive system. Statistically, Mississippi State has the SEC’s best pass defense. But the passing offenses, the Bulldogs have faced are No. 2 (LSU), No. 8 (TAMU), No. 9 (Arkansas) and No. 14 (Kentucky). Mike Leach’s pass defense may be no better than what the Crimson Tide battled in Knoxville.