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Will Jaylen Waddle return for national championship game?

Injured Alabama receiver practicing with team again ahead of bout with Ohio State
Alabama Crimson Tide receiver Jaylen Waddle watches from sideline during 2020 SEC Championship
Posted at 10:18 AM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-07 10:18:56-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Alabama will have the nation's most outstanding player take the field Monday night in the College Football Playoff National Championship. But the attention may be on who lines up on the other end of the line from him.

Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who hasn't played since Oct. 24, could make his return when top-ranked Alabama faces No. 3 Ohio State at Hard Rock Stadium.

Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian confirmed Wednesday that Waddle is once again practicing with the team after suffering what was believed to have been a season-ending ankle injury in a win against Tennessee.

Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian in 2019
Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian watches warmups before a game against LSU, Nov. 9, 2019, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

"He was back out at practice yesterday," Sarkisian told reporters. "We'll see where it goes from here."

Waddle was a preseason All-Southeastern Conference selection entering the season and named the SEC freshman of the year in 2017. He had 25 receptions for 557 yards and four touchdowns when he went down in the fifth game of the season.

The Crimson Tide didn't miss a beat in the passing game, though, thanks to the play of Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith and quarterback Mac Jones, who finished third in Heisman voting.

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Smith, who has tallied 105 catches for 1,641 yards and 20 scores, was optimistic about his teammate's recovery.

"I think he's getting back into it," Smith said. "Of course, he's going to take some time just for him to get back comfortable with everything, but he looks good to me."

However, Smith was noncommittal when asked if he thought Waddle would play Monday.

Rose Bowl Football
Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith advances the ball during the first half of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Notre Dame in Arlington, Texas, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

"No comment," he answered.

Jones didn't provide any more clarity when asked about Waddle's availability.

"Yeah, he actually looked really good, but I don't know if I can answer that question properly because you've got to ask coach (Nick) Saban and the training staff," he said.

Suffice to say, though, Jones would certainly be in favor of having another target to throw to against the Buckeyes.

"But he's worked really hard in his rehab, and we'll see what happens," Jones said.