Julio Jones started it with Nick Saban at the University of Alabama.
Still, the Crimson Tide has been known for signing marquee freshmen wide receivers and developing them to be remarkable.
Amari Cooper was a 1,000-yard receiver as a freshman, Calvin Ridley was a Freshman All-American, DeVonta Smith caught a game-winning touchdown pass to secure a national championship as a freshman, and Jaylen Waddle was electric.
In its victory over Mississippi at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Tide may have found its next breakout receiver.
Jalen Hale, a true freshman from Texas, earned his way onto the field and made his presence felt. He caught two passes for 63 yards, including an incredible 33-yard touchdown reception from Jalen Milroe. The 6-foot-1, 189-pounder leaped in the air, adjusted to the ball, and made a contested reception over a defensive back. Hale, a former four-star, led the team for receiving yards — helping the Tide to a 24-10 victory against the Rebels. He recorded explosive plays over receivers such as Ja’Corey Brooks, Isaiah Bond, Kendrick Law, and Kobe Prentice. Alabama has a talented receiver room, but is Hale demonstrating that now is his moment? He played with an attacking mindset and received praise from Saban, Milroe, and Malachi Moore.
Saban said he wants to have the freshman continue to grow in knowing his role.
“He did a good job. He made some big plays,” Saban said Monday about Hale.
“I think the big thing with Jalen being a young player is you have to know what to do on every play so you can do your job. We need to work hard with him to try to get him to where he needs to be and make sure he’s playing with confidence.”
Milroe said Hale’s success and growth started in the offseason.
“The biggest thing about Hale is how hungry he has been,” Milroe said. “He is a great component to our offense. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does for our offense.”
Moore, a defensive back, competes against Hale in practice and is impressed with him.
“I started noticing Jalen Hale in the summer,” Moore said. “He’s been coming along very well. I’m excited for him, and I think he’s going to be a great player for us.”
The team’s confidence in Hale is significant, especially with bigger matchups coming.
Hale, an alumnus of Longview High School, was a three-sport athlete. He excelled at football, basketball, and track and field.
Hale became the first freshman to play on the Longview varsity team in the last 15 years. He recorded 41 career touchdown receptions on 141 catches. Hale takes on Mississippi State this weekend with an opportunity to grow more as a playmaker.
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