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Reports: Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle returning to practice, could play in national title game

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Could the Alabama offense have another weapon available against Ohio State in the College Football Playoff national championship game?

Alabama head coach Nick Saban told ESPN’s Chris Low on Tuesday that wide receiver Jaylen Waddle has been cleared to return to practice this week. There’s a chance Waddle, who suffered a serious ankle injury against Tennessee on Oct. 24, could play in the title game on Monday in Miami.

From ESPN:

"He's been running, but we need to see him in practice," Saban said. "Our medical people will evaluate him as the week goes on and make a decision from there. He wants to play and has been working hard to get back."

Al.com reported Monday that Waddle was expected to participate in practice, beginning on Tuesday.

Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) pulls in a pass over Mississippi defensive back A.J. Finley (21) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. Alabama won 63-48. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) pulls in a pass over Mississippi defensive back A.J. Finley (21) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. Alabama won 63-48. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Waddle, a junior, is one of the most explosive players in the country, both as a receiver and kick returner. Waddle suffered a fractured right ankle when returning the opening kickoff against Tennessee on Oct. 24. At the time, the school said Waddle’s injury was season-ending, but Saban said last month that Waddle was out of a cast and progressing very well in his rehab.

Waddle was an All-American as a returner in 2019 and entered 2020 as one of Alabama’s starting receivers alongside DeVonta Smith, who has since emerged as the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy on Tuesday night.

In four games in 2020, Waddle caught 25 passes for 557 yards and four touchdowns, including a 90-yard score in the 41-24 victory over Georgia. He primarily operated out of the slot for the Tide. In 33 games played over three seasons, Waddle has 103 catches for 1,965 yards and 17 touchdowns. He’s averaging 19.1 yards per reception over that span.

In his absence, John Metchie has emerged as Alabama’s No. 2 receiver. Metchie has 47 catches for 835 yards and six scores while Smith has compiled 105 catches for 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns. Slade Bolden has moved into the slot and caught 21 passes for 254 yards.

Like Smith, Waddle is considered a top NFL draft prospect. Yahoo Sports’ Eric Edholm had Waddle going No. 11 overall in his most recent mock draft.

Even with Waddle sidelined, Alabama enters Monday night’s title game averaging 48.2 points and 535 yards per game.

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