The buzz about Jaylen Waddle started nearly as soon as fall camp did. Alabama’s freshman wide receiver would have a chance to contribute, it was known.
Waddle did more than that this fall. Through 13 games, he’s second on the team with 803 receiving yards. He’s third on the team with 41 catches. He’s tied for third on the team with seven receiving touchdowns.
“Definitely more than I expected,” he said.
Only Calvin Ridley, Amari Cooper and Julio Jones posted more receiving yards at Alabama as a freshman. He is Alabama’s only true freshman on offense to play in all 13 games. He could still have two games to pile up more statistics.
He’s been able to do that even while competing with three returning players who have all made major contributions as Alabama’s receivers. Sophomores Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and Devonta Smith might have made the road more difficult for a player like Waddle. Instead, they paved the way.
“I knew they were talented,” Waddle said. “… I was just here to learn. They took me under their wing.”
He’s also added 226 yards and a touchdown on 15 punt returns as the Crimson Tide’s primary returner. He announced his presence early, with a 31-yard return against Louisville in the opener. His touchdown came on a 63-yard return against Louisiana-Lafayette. In the seven games after that, he had just four returns, none of which went longer than one yard. He said he doesn’t think opponents are avoiding him.
“No, not at all,” he said. “I just think they scheme up more.”
Waddle said his freshman season has been “indescribable.” He had a 51-yard touchdown reception against Georgia to pull Alabama within a touchdown in the third quarter. But that singular play hasn’t been his favorite moment this fall.
“Winning this game is my favorite part of the season,” he said.