Nick Saban: Jaylen Waddle game-time decision, Malachi Moore questionable for Alabama football

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle remains a game-time decision for Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship Game, UA coach Nick Saban said Sunday. Defensive back Malachi Moore remains, "very questionable," while defensive lineman LaBryan Ray has returned to practice and has a better chance of playing.

Waddle has been the headline of the week from the UA side of things after his return to the practice field on Tuesday from the ankle injury that was thought to end his season. The successful surgery and smooth rehabilitation process allowed Waddle to return to physical activity leading up to the SEC Championship Game and return to practice after the semifinal.

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"He has been able to practice to some degree," Saban said. "I think the biggest challenge is can he sustain in the game, and it'll be a game-time decision as to whether he thinks he can play and go out there and do his job well enough to contribute to the team, and we won't know that until we get out there after pregame warmup."

Waddle's impact on the offense, when he's in it, is unquestioned: in his four games this season, he's averaged 139.25 yards per game, scored four touchdowns and caught at least five passes in all of them.

Saban's comment on handling workload is consistent with what he said earlier in the week, shortly after Waddle's return to the practice field.

"The issue with injuries is when a guy does practice, how does he respond to the workload," Saban said. "Sometimes if a guy practices one day and gets sore the next, you can't practice him the next day, so you just keep sort of trying to build up his workload to where he might be able to play."

Moore started for UA at its star defensive back position all season, earning Freshman All-American honors along the way. Moore's six pass breakups are third on the team. When his back injury kept him out of the semifinal against Notre Dame, fellow freshman Brian Branch produced three tackles and a pass breakup.

The pass breakup was a critical one, coming on a fourth down in the red zone.

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Ray has been in and out of UA's lineup since the beginning of the 2019 season. He was a fixture for the first three games of 2019 before an elbow injury that ultimately cost him the rest of the season. Ray was once again healthy for the first three games of 2020 before missing the next three; he's played a limited role in four games since then, but most recently did not dress out for the semifinal against Notre Dame.

"LaBryan Ray, probably a little more probable," Saban said. "He's been able to practice some this week and hopefully we'll get some contribution from him."

Ray's presence in UA's defensive rotation would be vital due to his positional flexibility. Without him, UA has turned to junior Phidarian Mathis, freshman Tim Smith and, to a lesser extent, freshman Jamil Burroughs, behind sophomore DJ Dale at nose guard. Ray's return would give UA another option at that position, in addition to bolstering depth at defensive end.

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