Alabama Football News

Could Alabama feature receiver Jaylen Waddle at RB this season?

Jaylen Waddle punt returning
Marvin Gentry - USA TODAY Sports

Alabama still has its primary running backs in Najee Harris and Brian Robinson, but a season-ending foot injury to Trey Sanders in fall practice caused Twitter to erupt. 

Many Crimson Tide fans were excited to see the five-star talent on the field, and the coaching staff had the native Floridian pegged to serve in the Josh Jacobs/Kenyan Drake-esque role.  

Sanders will need surgery to repair his foot and despite the capabilities of Jerome Ford and Keilan Robinson – who both performed well in the first scrimmage – there is another idea Alabama could pursue to create production out the backfield. 

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Jaylen Waddle is an electrifying young talent at wide receiver.  

The sophomore from Houston, Texas is the toughest option to cover for defenders and he recorded an incredible freshman campaign.

After getting the nickname “human joystick” in fall practice, the four-star collected 848 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 45 catches. 

He totaled a pair of 100-yard games – including one versus Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Championship.

Waddle caught four passes for 113 yards with one touchdown. His 51-yard catch and burst to pay dirt cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 28-21 in the second half. The Tide would go on to capture a 35-28 win and punch its ticket to the College Football Playoff.

His playmaking abilities at receiver and punt returner already places stress on defensive coordinators, so imagine if Alabama tried him at running back.

Former stars such as Tyrone Prothro, David Palmer, Freddie Milons and Amari Cooper all pressured opposition, when the Tide chose to send them in motion. Each of these guys were able to draw the attention of defenders and create opportunities for teammates, or operate out the backfield in space. 

Programs like University of Florida and University of West Virginia carried playmakers such as Percy Harvin and Tavon Austin, who operated in this role and had much success.

Waddle’s blend of quickness, change of direction and acceleration would be ideal for Alabama in taking direct snaps, moving in motion across the formation, and even catching a pass in the flat upon the snap of the football.

Offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian stated prior to the Open Practice/Fan Day that Waddle is a “dynamic player with a high football IQ.” In having someone that averaged 18.84 yards a catch and 14 yards per punt, the Tide has to involve Waddle in more ways than one.

Per sources from the scrimmage, the 5’10” matchup nightmare is “uncoverable.”  

The speed that he has forces guys to take poor angles in terms of trying to tackle him.  

High fatigue and risking an injury would stand as the lone negatives from the thought of experimenting with Waddle at running back.

One does not want to overuse the talent; nevertheless, it is still something to consider.  

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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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