Jacobs, Waddle show glimpses of what’s ahead at No. 1 ‘Bama
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Crimson Tide running back Josh Jacobs proclaimed himself back from an injury-plagued season while wide receiver Jaylen Waddle announced his arrival at Alabama with equal flair.
Both managed to stand out even amid a deep crop of more heralded playmakers in the top-ranked Crimson Tide’s opening rout of Louisville, which hardly came as a surprise to their teammates.
They’re likely to get plenty more chances this season starting with Saturday’s game against Arkansas State, on both offense and special teams.
Jacobs was slowed by ankle and hamstring injuries most of last season and had offseason ankle surgery. In a game where no Alabama back logged more than eight carries, he ran six times for 45 yards.
Jacobs also scored on an 18-yard run and 77-yard kick return on consecutive touches in the third quarter. Standing out in a backfield with star Damien Harris and sophomore Najee Harris is no small task.
“Josh is very explosive,” Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. said. “We’ve all known what he can do. He’s been injured. I feel like it’s time now for him to show everybody what he’s capable of. Y’all got a little sample of it last week.”
The freshman receiver Waddle, who drew plenty of preseason buzz, provided a glimpse of his abilities, too. He averaged 20 yards on four punt returns, setting up a late first-half touchdown with a 31-yarder. Waddle also had a score called back because of an illegal block.
His 49-yard fingertip grab set up a touchdown and highlighted a three-catch, 66-yard performance.
Waddle, Jacobs said, “really might be the fastest dude on the team.”
“I think the dude runs at least a 4.28 (40), legit,” Jacobs said. “He has legit speed. He’s going to make a lot of big plays. You’ll see a lot of him throughout the year.”
He also promptly took over the punt return duties with Trevon Diggs moving into a starting role at cornerback.
“I thought if we put him back there and he struggled we could always go back to Trevon Diggs who is really good at getting the ball fielded, and is a really good returner,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “Probably not as explosive as Jaylen. So we wanted to give him an opportunity rather than put the other guy in, then he goes in and something goes wrong. So we felt good about him and he obviously did a good job in the game.”
Jacobs was more of a known commodity. A relatively unheralded recruit, he averaged 6.5 yards per carry the past two seasons, though he only ran 46 times in 2017 thanks to injury issues and a loaded backfield.
In January, he posted on Twitter that he was having surgery to repair a broken ankle sustained in the fifth game last season. Jacobs opened Alabama’s second series with two straight runs and was quickly over any jitters after returning from the injury.
“Honestly, I thought after the first run when the dude kind of hit me, I thought, ‘Oh yeah, it’s time,'” he said. “That’s probably the one that really hyped me the most.”