Emboldened: How the Tide will roll on without Waddle

He’s fast, he can catch and he operates under pressure. Nick Saban is confident that no one can fill Jaylen Waddle’s shoes quite like Slade Bolden.

Alabama notched its fourteenth-straight victory over Tennessee last Saturday. But it came at a high cost. 

Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Seeking to keep the offensive momentum going, Alabama will now look to receivers like Slade Bolden to step up and keep the Tide rolling into this weekend’s matchup against Mississippi State. 

Alabama can’t replace the explosiveness Waddle brought to the Crimson Tide’s offense, but the team is not looking to do that. Head coach Nick Saban said in a press conference earlier this week what he wants from Bolden and his other receivers in the coming weeks.

“We can do the things that [Bolden] can do well,” Saban said. “And he doesn’t need to be anybody but himself. We don’t put expectations on him, we just want him to be the best player that he can be, relative to what he can do.”

Saban also said the team is looking to get other receivers like freshman Javon Baker to step up and play to the best of their abilities. Alabama is not looking to replicate what Waddle can do on the field. Instead, they’re looking to adjust and adapt the offense to continue to be successful.

Bolden hadn’t seen much of the field before Saturday. But now as the primary slot receiver, he has an entirely new workload. Bolden discussed this opportunity he now has in a press conference on Tuesday. 

“[Waddle’s injury] is not the way I wanted to get this opportunity, of course,” Bolden said. “But, yeah, I’m thankful for the opportunity. I’m just here to get better and improve each and every day.”

Bolden said during Tuesday’s press conference that he may not be the fastest player on the field, but he will play with a lot of heart and determination. He also said he will catch any ball that is near him. Saban highlighted Bolden’s speed as a weapon at the slot position. 

“Well Slade’s really quick,” Saban said. “A lot of guys like Slade become very effective slot kind of players because they’re quick out of a break, they got good initial quickness, good hands, very smart and heady in terms of their instinct and their ability to make quick decisions.”

Bolden will add a different dynamic to the offense, but don’t be surprised if Bolden makes big catches down the field. With the coaches’ trust, Bolden is poised to make an impact on this offense and keep the Tide rolling down the field. 

The key to handling adversity could be the team’s energy, Saban said. During Monday’s press conference, Saban said the team had good spirits on the sideline and noted their enthusiasm throughout Saturday’s game. Moving forward, Saban stated that high levels of energy are needed to continue strong play this season. 

“Nobody feels great this time of the year, so you kinda gotta choose your energy and let your feelings follow that,” Saban said.