No. 2 Alabama jumped out to an early lead against rival Tennessee when the two teams squared off Saturday afternoon. But the Crimson Tide lost a key part of their offense on the very first play of the game.
After Jaylen Waddle injured his ankle on the opening kickoff against Tennessee, Alabama fans received an even more concerning update later on.
According to Marcus Mosher of USA Today, Waddle is headed to the hospital in an ambulance.
ESPN's Chris Fowler also weighed in on the injury, confirming that an ambulance took Waddle away from Neyland Stadium. He specifically raised an important question: is it worth using key players on kick and punt returns?
It's a nearly unanswerable question. The play happened on the opening kickoff of the game as the Volunteers' special teams unit tried to bring down the elusive Waddle.
Now, the Alabama wide receiver finds himself with a serious injury.
Without Waddle, quarterback Mac Jones will need to explore other options on offense. Already in 2020, Waddle racked up 25 receptions for 557 yards and four touchdowns. The junior wide receiver is by far the most dynamic playmaker for the Crimson Tide early on this year.
It's been a breakout year for Waddle, who, until his injury, headlined Alabama's passing attack. Stuck behind NFL rookies and top-15 picks Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, Waddle caught just 33 balls in 2019 and found the end zone just six times.
As a team with high exceptions this season, Alabama will have to adapt. If anyone can find a way to fill the hole left by Waddle, it's Nick Saban.
For now, Alabama fans will wish Waddle a speedy recovery.