2019 Alabama Player Spotlights

2019 Player Spotlight: WR Jaylen Waddle

Jaylen Waddle punt returning
Marvin Gentry - USA TODAY Sports

As we hit the summer portion of the offseason, Touchdown Alabama Magazine will release a series of player spotlight pieces on starters and marquee contributors for the 2019 football season. In these articles, we will dive into the strengths and weaknesses of each player, provide expectations for 2019, give NFL Draft projections for those who are eligible, and conclude with how each one can impact the team. 

The sixth offensive player is Jaylen Waddle. 

Jaylen Waddle’s attributes 

-Position: Wide Receiver 

-Classification: Sophomore 

-Height/Weight: 5-11/182 pounds 

-2018 stats: 45 catches, 848 yards, 7 TD receptions 

Strengths 

-Speed 

-Hands 

-Explosive plays 

Summary: He arrived at Alabama as a five-star receiver from Houston, Texas in the 2018 recruiting cycle; however, Jaylen Waddle earned a nickname before the Crimson Tide would take on Louisville to start last season.

According to multiple players, he was referred to as the “human joystick” with how explosive he was after catching the football. The name not only made sense, but it also frustrated defensive coordinators throughout his freshman campaign. 

Waddle finished third on the team in receptions (45), second in receiving yards (848) and tied for third in touchdowns (seven). His jaw-dropping average of 18.84 yards per catch was not only good for second on Alabama’s roster, but it also placed him sixth in the Southeastern Conference and 18th in the nation.

Waddle posted three 100-yard performances – including one in the SEC Championship Game versus Georgia, where he had 113 yards with one score on four catches. 

RELATED: 2019 Player Spotlight: WR DeVonta Smith

His average of 14.56 yards per return was good for second in the SEC and fifth in all of college football.

For a recruiting class that barely finished in the top-five, Waddle put it on the map as he was named SEC Freshman of the Year and received honors as a Freshman All-American.

He also made the SEC’s All-Freshman Team for his honors in 2018.  

While most receiver possess one gear, the sophomore has three to four different forms of acceleration that baffles defensive backs. Upon him catching the ball, chances of him taking passes to the end zone increase dramatically.

This type of speed, mixed with his hands and instincts in space, makes for high-caliber plays and highlights only seen on SportsCenter. 

Weaknesses 

-More chances on special teams 

Summary: This is not necessarily a weakness for Waddle, but it is something for Alabama’s coaching staff to take advantage of. Opposition punted the ball to the native Texan to start last season, because it did not know what to expect. After seeing his play-making abilities a few times, they started kicking away from him – which limited his access. 

For the Tide, it would be a good idea to start Waddle on kickoff returns too. 

This gives him a stage to be all the more dangerous, especially given the fact that a ball kicked out-of-bounds results in a penalty.

Nick Saban watched his bunch do a solid job of blocking last year, so using Waddle here would better his chances of seeing the end zone more.  

Expectations for 2019 season 

Alabama fans could not have asked for a better freshman year from Waddle, but it’s about improvement when one is part of Saban’s process.

Should his quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, remain upright throughout next fall, a 1,000-yard performance is not a hard task for him. 

Waddle has a chance to be the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year and become a First Team selection for the conference. While his teammate, Jerry Jeudy, is the reigning Fred Biletnikoff Award winner, he better keeps eyes on Waddle.

The sophomore is in line for that honor as well. 

Switching from Josh Gattis to Holmon Wiggins is not easy; nevertheless, the idea for Waddle is continuing to find ways to keep defenders off balance.

If he can do that, next season will be successful.  

Conclusion 

Jaylen Waddle caught people by surprise and took the college game by storm. 

Opponents will be ready for him come August, but can they stop him? It is a question all will have to answer as he competes against some of the best defensive backs at practice.  

When talking to current players about him, yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine was told on how he is very different to tackle. It is hard to game plan and provide a scheme against someone who is that dynamic and can hurt a defense in numerous ways. In speaking with former Alabama receiver Matt Caddell, he referred to Waddle as “Mr. Electricity” on In My Own Words and he’s back for more damage.  

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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