Alabama receiver could return from ankle injury to play against Ohio State

Alabama coach Nick Saban arrives with his team at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014, in New Orleans. David Jablonski/Staff
Alabama coach Nick Saban arrives with his team at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014, in New Orleans. David Jablonski/Staff

Jaylen Waddle returns to practice less than week before national championship game

Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle suffered what was described at the time as a season-ending ankle injury Oct. 24 in the fifth game of the season against Tennessee.

However, with the Alabama reaching the national championship game, Waddle has had extra time to heal, and he could return to action when the Crimson Tide play Ohio State on Monday.

“It’s amazing just to see him recover,” said another Alabama wide receiver, DeVonta Smith, on Wednesday in a Zoom call with reporters one day after he won the Heisman Trophy. “I’m glad that he’s recovering well and that everything is just going as planned.”

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Waddle, a junior, caught 25 passes for 557 yards and scored four touchdowns before his injury. A season ago, he ranked fourth on the team with 33 catches for 560 yards.

Smith had no comment when asked if he thought Waddle would play against Ohio State, but when asked how he looked at practice this week, Smith said, I think he’s getting back into it. Of course, he’s going to take some time just for him to get back comfortable with everything, but he looks good to me.”

Alabama head coach Nick Saban told ESPN on Monday that Waddle wants to play and has worked hard to return. On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian provided an another update.

“We’ll see where it goes from here,” Sarkisian said. “Clearly we’ve got about a week or so until the game, so probably a better question for coach Saban, but yes, he was back at practice yesterday.

Single focus: Sarkisian will coach with Alabama in the championship game and then transition to his new job as the head coach at Texas, where he replaces the fired Tom Herman.

“My focus is on the game,” Sarkisian said. “I’m prepping for the ballgame. Any of the spare time that I do have, that’s getting my attention for the job at Texas, whether that’s staffing or recruiting, things of that nature. But I would say my week has been as normal as it could be.”

Big honor: Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields has been named the Big Ten’s most valuable player.

The Chicago Tribune announced Wednesday the junior from Georgia was picked the winner of the paper’s Silver Football, which has gone to the league MVP since Red Grange of Illinois won the first one in 1924.

Fields was already named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year and Quarterback of the Year.

He led the conference in passing efficiency and enters the College Football Playoff National Championship Game having completed 141 of 192 passes for 1,906 yards and 21 touchdowns.

An Ohio State player has won the Silver Football 22 times, including seven of the last eight years.

That string started with Wayne High School graduate and Springfield native Braxton Miller winning it in 2012 and ’13. Ezekiel Elliott won it two years later followed by J.T. Barrett, Dwayne Haskins and Chase Young.

Wes Fesler won Ohio State’s first Silver Football in 1930. Miller and Archie Griffin are Ohio State’s two-time winners.

In just two seasons, Fields has won five major Big Ten awards. That ties him with Orlando Pace for second in school history.

Miller is the leader with seven. He was the two-time offensive player of the year, quarterback of the year and MVP while also being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2011.

Pace won the 1996 Silver Football and was also named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year that season. He was the Offensive Lineman of the Year in ’95 and ’96 and Freshman of the Year in ’94.

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