David Pollack believes Jaylen Waddle's injury may knock Alabama from title contention
By all indications, WR Jaylen Waddle’s season-ending ankle injury is a significant blow to Alabama’s offense. How it changes without him is still very much up for debate.
The issue was discussed by ESPN’s David Pollack and Kirk Herbstreit on the latest episode of the “CFB Podcast with Herbie, Pollack & Negandhi.” While Alabama has plenty of quality players and highly recruited talent, it’s not as easy as plugging in another blue chip recruit.
Pollack, though, believes it changes the offense enough to alter the Crimson Tide’s championship expectations.
“I think it’s over for ‘Bama,” Pollack said. “I think if you’re just talking about winning a national title, I don’t think they can win a national title without (Waddle). By the way, like, yes — ‘Bama’s recruited at a high level. But you don’t have, like, 4-2 (40-yard-dash-timed) guys — well, ‘Bama actually last year, (Henry) Ruggs and (Waddle), the last year, last two years — you don’t have 4.2, 4.3 (40-yard dash) guys sitting around.
Pollack said the Alabama offense is different than last season. Rather than being a run-pass option team, Pollack said it’s run the football and play action.
“They stack those guys, DeVonta Smith and him, together where you can’t jam ’em and you can’t double ’em because they put them on the same side of the field — and it just makes life absolutely miserable on you,” Pollack said. “So I think this is a huge blow, man. And listen, every team — you can do this with every team. You take away a stud like that, but especially a team like Alabama. By the way, they’re just the most balanced and Mac Jones is one of the best deep-ball throwers because Waddle is a guy that adjusts to the football and has so much speed to stretch the defense. So it just stinks and I hate it for him, and I just think ‘Bama went from a team that I think can win a championship and you lose a guy like that of that caliber, I don’t think you can win a championship without him.”
Herbstreit did not go that far, but added that it’s not as easy as replacing Waddle with someone else. Herbstreit mentioned that it’s nobody’s fault, a reference to coach Nick Saban’s comments about taking the kickoff out of the end zone on the play when he was injured. He also added that all indications are that Waddle will have a chance to come back as strong, if not even stronger.
“To say that they just throw in the next guy — I think we’re all going to be in agreement here — is ridiculous,” Herbstreit said. “Yeah, they have (John) Metchie and, of course, DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris, (Miller) Forristall at tight end. It looks like this guy Slade Bolden, who we’ve seen, play the slot. But if I’m defending Alabama and I’ve got 17 over there in the slot, to go along with all the other weapons, holy cow. Where do I start? And I’m not taking anything away from Bolden. He looks like he’s a solid player. (If he weren’t), he wouldn’t be at Alabama. But you’re talking about quick as a hiccup, hold your breath every single time Jaylen Waddle got the ball. I’m talking yards after the catch. He’s now become a vertical threat. Total package. As good as there is in college football.
“So you can’t take that out and now say, ‘Hey, good luck to you, good luck in rehab. We’re business as usual.’ Now, against most teams they play, it may not be a factor. But if they get in against better defenses and they get in against games where they need a dynamic play, you can’t just turn to DeVonta Smith. You can’t just go to Najee Harris, a different kind of playmaker. So … our thoughts, first and foremost, with him and the injury that he sustained. But let’s not pretend that that’s not a significant loss to that offense.”