The emergency of freshman receiver Jaylen Waddle has given Alabama’s dynamic passing game another mouth to feed, while making it impossible for opposing defensive backfields to roll coverages over to one guy.
It was Waddle’s speed that not only had Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs III in a state of shock all summer, but it also forced the Crimson Tide’s secondary to grow quickly in terms of shutting down college football’s elite weapons.
Tennessee and its fans base were highly confident upon entering its rivalry matchup versus Alabama over the weekend; however, first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt witnessed the difference between Waddle and his defenders – when it comes to level on play on the field.
A native of Houston, Texas, the elite receiving prospect executed perfect routes against the Volunteers and recorded his first 100-yard performance in a matchup with a Southeastern Conference opponent.
Waddle snagged four passes for a team-high 117 receiving yards, including a 77-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa made a perfect throw, which allowed the 5’10” speedster to not break stride and fly to the end zone.
Video comes from SEC on CBS via Twitter
Tua is special.
It’s literally impossible to throw a football better than this. pic.twitter.com/pR6Jiwj37X
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 20, 2018
All four of Waddle’s receptions went for first downs, with two of them allowing Alabama to convert on third down. One of his catches came during a pivotal two-minute drill in the second quarter that resulted in a 9-yard scoring pass from Tagovailoa to tight end Irv Smith, Jr.
To add more to his successful season, Waddle is one of three Tide wide outs in the top-10 of the SEC in receiving via ESPN. He sits at No. 8 with 457 yards with three touchdowns on 21 catches, while averaging a jaw-dropping 21.8 yards per reception. His numbers are good for second behind Jeudy on Alabama’s roster, and after a 58-21 win over Tennessee, Saban took time to give praise to his entire receiving unit and the program’s offense as a whole.
“I think we have the right kind of players,” Saban said upon being asked about the efficiency of the Tide’s passing game. “I think I mentioned before the season that we would have a different team. We have four really good wide receivers. They made tough catches. They make contested catches. They took some hits… Made some great catches on long balls and the quarterback is a naturally instinctive guy that knows what to do.”
Thanks to offensive tackles Jonah Williams and Jedrick Wills, Tagovailoa had more than enough time to feed Waddle to his second 100-yard outing. Alabama will rest some players this week as it is off, but expect some work to be done in preparation for Louisiana State University.