Jaylen Waddle remains one of the biggest questions, if not the bigger, heading into the college football playoff championship.
The status of Alabama’s star wide receiver remains uncertain ahead of the top-ranked Tide’s meeting with No. 3 Ohio State, and Alabama has neither confirmed nor denied whether he will be able to enter the field against the Buckeyes on Monday.
Why does that matter when Alabama already has Heisman and Biletnikoff winner DeVonta Smith ready to play? Waddle actually surpassed Sporting News’ Player of the Year before his Week 5 injury against Tennessee, producing 557 receiving yards and four touchdowns with Smith’s marks of 483 and four, respectively.
If Waddle came back 100 percent healthy, he would immediately improve on what is already one of the most potent offenses in college football. Of course, there is also the question of whether this is simply a skill for the game of Tide coach Nick Saban, forcing Ryan Day and Ohio State to plan the game for someone who might not play.
Whether that is the case remains to be seen. Until then, here’s everything you need to know about Waddle’s injury, how it happened, his recovery timeline, the rumors, and the state of the game:
MORE: Alabama’s DeVonta Smith is Sporting News’ 2020 Player of the Year
How long will Jaylen Waddle be out?
When Waddle suffered a broken ankle in the kickoff against Tennessee on Oct. 24, Saban did not mince words about the severity of his injury:
“He’s out. He’s out,” Saban said. “He’s out for a year. And it’s a shame, because the guy is a great player. It’s exciting for college football to see a guy play like this. I hate him.”
On the Monday following the game, Saban told reporters that Waddle had successfully undergone ankle surgery on Saturday night and that he had remained in the hospital ever since.
Saban on December 16 provided an update on the status of Waddle (via 247Sports’ Alabama reporter Charlie Potter), saying the catcher was off his boot, running on a treadmill and “making good progress day by day” but not practicing. Twelve days later, on December 28, Saban provided an additional update on Waddle’s injury:
Saban on Jaylen Waddle: “Jaylen’s rehab is moving forward. He’s running on dry land, he’s still working his way back. But he’s making progress. We’re happy to see him at least get out there and do some runs and do some things, but not yet. has returned to practice. “
– Charlie Potter (@Charlie_Potter) December 28, 2020
Yet three days after Alabama’s Rose Bowl victory over Notre Dame on January 1, Matt Zenitz from AL.com reported that Waddle would return to practice on January 5, six days before the national title game. That day marked 10 weeks and three days after he sustained the injury, which generally has a recovery timeline of 6 to 10 weeks.
According to a report on January 5, Aaron Suttles of Athletic, Waddle has been cleared to practice, but will make the final decision on whether to play. Part of that decision is whether he feels comfortable enough to go out onto the field and risk re-injury: The star catcher is considered a first-round talent by consensus, and Sporting News projects him as the New England’s 15th overall pick. Patriots.
What is Jaylen Waddle’s injury?
Waddle’s exact injury, according to SabanIt was a combination of an ankle sprain and a right ankle fracture.
The injury occurred in the kickoff against Tennessee on October 25; Volunteer defender Kenneth George Jr. was at the tackle, forcing Waddle’s right foot to get caught between his body and the field and causing the damage to his ankle.
The risk of reinjuring a fractured ankle once it has fully healed can be minimized by strengthening the local muscles around the initial fracture. Assuming Waddle has done enough to strengthen his ankle muscles, to the point that he can play at game speed, he probably won’t have to worry about breaking it again as a result of his previous injury.
Will Jaylen Waddle play in the CFP championship?
Waddle’s teammates who have seen him practice say he looks relatively clear of obstacles.
“I think he’s doing it again,” said Smith (via BamaInsider). “Of course, it will take a while just to get him comfortable with everything, but it looks good to me.”
Quarterback Mac Jones said, “I feel like looking at him, he looks really good. So we’ll see what happens.”
Still, Saban said that whether Waddle will play is likely a game day decision.
“The problem with injuries is that when a man practices, how does he respond to the workload?” Saban said (via BamaOnLine). “Sometimes if a kid practices one day and it hurts the next day, you can’t practice the next day, so you keep trying to increase his workload to where he can play. So that’s a work in progress. Right now, And you can’t really predict where it might be, and then other guys seem to get stronger, every day they practice, they get a little bit better.
“This is something that we are trying to evaluate, but not something that we can make any kind of prediction about at this point.”
Saban provided a final update on Waddle’s status on Sunday, saying he was able to practice “to some extent” before the game. That said, Saban said the team probably won’t know if it can play until after pregame warm-ups.
Jaylen Waddle injury updates
October 24th: Jaylen Waddle initially breaks his ankle in what Saban calls a season-ending injury.
October 24th: Waddle undergoes successful ankle surgery.
December 16: Saban says Waddle has no cast and runs on a treadmill, but he’s not practicing.
December 28th: Saban says that Waddle is running on dry land but still can’t practice.
January 1st: Waddle is seen catching balls before the game before the Rose Bowl.
January 4: Matt Zenitz reports that Waddle will be back to practice the next day.
January 5: Aaron Suttles reports that Waddle is cleared to practice, but has the final decision on whether to play.
January 6th: Alabama teammates DeVonta Smith and Mac Jones say Waddle looks good on his return to practice.
January 7th: Saban says Waddle’s status to play will be a game day decision.
January 10: Saban says Waddle’s status will be determined after Monday’s pregame warm-ups.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.