First, he goes left. Then he breaks right. And before the defender knows it, a quick juke sends Jaylen Waddle well on his way to the end zone.
Maybe those weren’t the exact moves, but the Crimson Tide’s freshman wide receiver did score three touchdowns in Alabama’s 56-14 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Two were on offense. The other was on special teams. Each showcased his speed and escapability.
“Some moments you try not to watch, like you’ll catch yourself watching because he just makes so many people miss,” UA running back Josh Jacobs said. “He slips out sometimes when you never think that he would. It’s kind of understood now, just keep blocking until you hear the whistle.”
More times than not, at least in this game, the whistle signaled a touchdown.
With just three catches, Waddle produced 138 receiving yards. The only pass he caught that didn’t put points on the board was a 24-yarder from Tua Tagovailoa in the first quarter. The next one – a 20-yarder in the second quarter from the same quarterback – put up six.
Waddle later caught a pass from quarterback Mac Jones in the third quarter that ended up being a long 94-yard score. Really, the ball was only in the air for maybe 10 yards, and Waddle did the rest of the damage himself.
“He’s fast, he’s elusive, and he’s physical,” Jacobs said. “So, he’s just a special player and he’s going to be a special player for the next three or four years for this program.”
Ninety-four yards ties for the second-longest passing touchdown in Alabama history. Former UA quarterback AJ McCarron’s 99-yarder to former wide receiver Amari Cooper against Auburn in 2013 can’t be topped.
Those were Waddle’s first receiving touchdowns. His first career touchdown, however, also came against the Ragin’ Cajuns. He had a 63-yard punt return in the first quarter that finally added his name to the Crimson Tide’s scoring list.
Waddle has played in all five games so far this season. Overall, he has had 11 receptions for 264 yards and is Alabama’s fifth-leading receiver. He has returned 10 punts for 199 yards.
“We are really pleased with his development, and I think he is a great addition to the depth of our team in terms of guys that can make explosive plays on offense,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We are pleased with the progress he has made to this point and want him to continue to work on improving and be a little more consistent in other areas when he doesn’t have the ball.”
That can come with time and practice.
And speaking of practice, Waddle’s own teammates know better than anyone else what it’s like to go up against him.
“Man, it sucks,” UA defensive back Xavier McKinney said. “Because you miss a tackle.”
Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.