The status of Alabama receiver and return specialist Jaylen Waddle remains “up in the air” for Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship against Ohio State, coach Nick Saban said Thursday.
Saban said Waddle has practiced this week but will probably be a game-day decision.
“I don’t have any crystal ball to know,” Saban said.
Waddle suffered a combination of a high ankle sprain and fracture against Tennessee in mid-October, and he has not appeared in a game since.
Teammates John Metchie and DeVonta Smith have said Waddle has looked good since returning to practice this week, but neither would predict if he would be ready to play against the Buckeyes on Monday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Waddle is regarded as one of the most dynamic playmakers in college football.
The junior from Houston opened this season with at least 120 yards receiving in each of the first four games and led Alabama with 557 yards on just 25 catches, with four touchdowns. He has also been one of the nation’s top punt returners; his 733 yards on punt returns for an average of 19.3 yards over his three seasons ranks sixth in Alabama history.
Regardless of whether Waddle is available, Saban expressed optimism that Monday’s game will be played as scheduled.
Saban said there “were some issues relative to COVID” that prompted discussions earlier in the week about moving the game. The CFP last week announced Jan. 18 as a potential makeup date for the national title game
College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock, Alabama officials and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey all told ESPN on Tuesday that they are committed to playing on Monday. .
“Our school is starting this next week,” Saban said. “We would have had 35,000 students coming back here [to South Florida for the game]. We’ve played 12 games this year, so we have a lot of guys that have ground through the season, a lot of guys that are nicked up a little bit. Another week of practice would have been much more difficult for those guys probably.”
He also cited the Jan. 18 deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft.
“So just the whole timing of the whole thing would have been a tough management,” Saban said. “But I would have put player safety on either team as the most important factor in this decision.”