Alabama football receivers confident they can split the workload after Jaylen Waddle's injury

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Jaylen Waddle’s absence has no choice but to change where the ball goes in Alabama football's offense, considering he was averaging five receptions when he suffered his season-ending ankle injury.

UA’s offense in the two games played without him — and what the Tide can glean from opposing defenses — suggests not much else has to change.

When Alabama returns from its open week to a closing stretch against LSU, Kentucky, Auburn and Arkansas, it will answer how UA plans to run its offense without Waddle, given the stretch includes three of the SEC’s top five defenses. (LSU is the exception).

More:Alabama defense is improving, but by how much? 

UA doesn’t see much reason for change.

“I don’t think the defenses have changed much as far as the schematic standpoint because just on offense, we still have too many weapons,” sophomore wide receiver John Metchie III said. “We have weapons everywhere, and I don’t think that with one player that they can really change their whole scheme.”

Metchie and nearly every other UA wide receiver since at least the start of last season has said the offense is not centered around any given receiver as much as it finds the one the defense is granting the most advantageous looks.

Waddle was the feature receiver to start, with 134 yards and both touchdowns against Missouri. But it was Metchie a week later with 181 yards and two touchdowns against Texas A&M, and the next week belonged to DeVonta Smith with 13 catches for 164 yards against Ole Miss.

More:DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris become two-man show in Alabama offense

Smith and Metchie have alternated since then: Smith had 11 catches for 167 yards against Georgia, Metchie followed with 151 yards against Tennessee (the lone receiver over 100) and Smith followed with 203 yards and four touchdowns against Mississippi State. 

The trend carries back to last season. Jerry Jeudy opened the 2019 season with 10 catches while no other UA receiver had more than five. Three weeks later, Henry Ruggs III had at least 50 yards more than any other UA receiver and Smith did the same thing the next week.

Even in an offense that inherently features no one player for several consecutive weeks, Waddle is not an easy player to replace. UA’s wide receivers recognize that, but enjoy that no one is tasked with shouldering the load of his absence.

“I think it is big for everyone, as a whole unit, we need to kind of go back to the fundamentals and focus on our craft especially after losing Waddle,” Metchie said. “A guy like that is pretty much irreplaceable. He's pretty much one of one. So I think it’s big for everyone to kind of get back to the basics and hone their craft.”

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson