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Alabama star WR Jaylen Waddle battles through ankle injury to contribute in CFP National Championship

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Alabama’s Heisman Trophy winning receiver DeVonta Smith stole the show in Monday’s 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship, but the Crimson Tide also got a somewhat unexpected contribution from their other star receiver. Jaylen Waddle, who had not played since Oct. 24 because of an ankle injury, made his return against Ohio State and saw sporadic action even while limping noticeably at times.

Waddle’s status was a mystery leading into the game as he continued his rehabilitation in the days leading up to it. Alabama coach Nick Saban was non-committal on whether Waddle would play before saying in the hours before kickoff that the junior may be used “on a limited basis, if he can play.” 

But Waddle, who is ranked as the No. 3 receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft prospect rankings by CBS Sports, decided to give it a go and made a 15-yard reception on Alabama’s first series of the game. He became an even bigger part of the Crimson Tide’s offense in the third quarter after Smith left the game with an apparent injury and made two catches during Alabama scoring drives in the quarter.

Waddle had 25 catches for 557 yards and four touchdowns through his first four games, while adding elements in the return game to Alabama’s special teams before his injury. He was named a second-team All-SEC return specialist by the SEC’s coaches following the regular season. But with Waddle still not appearing to be 100%, he was not used in the return game on Monday.

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