Nick Saban doesn't usually do the whole comparing players thing, but he broke away from that rule Thursday night on The Nick Saban Show when discussing one of his freshman wide receivers.

“JoJo Earle is just a freshman, little No. 10, but I think this guy is special. He can be special,” Saban said. “He’s also a really good returner, and we’re trying to get him to be a little bit more confident back there commanding, especially in punt return, which is what he’d really be good at. He’s a little Waddle-like when it comes to that.”

The quickness with which Earle has made his presence felt on the field for the Crimson Tide is just as impressive as his actual foot speed, which he bolstered in high school as a track star in the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump and relays. Despite being a traditional enrollee in the Summer, Earle is set up to be a quality piece in the Crimson Tide offense by the season's end.

Earle rose through the ranks in training camp, earning a spot as a split-starter at slot receiver with Slade Bolden in the initial depth chart for the 2021 season. The 4-star from Aledo, Texas, was recruited for his dangerous speed and versatile ball skills.

Listed at 5'10"-170lbs, the comparisons to Jaylen Waddle are nothing new. While many analysts agree that from an agility standpoint it's difficult to compare anyone to Waddle, the speed factor and open-field ability are certainly reminiscent of the 6th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Waddle, a fellow Texas native, is listed at a similar stature: 5'10"-181lbs. Waddle, who now catches passes once again from Tua Tagovailoa with the Miami Dolphins, put up a tremendous Crimson Tide career catching 106 passes for 1,999 yards and 17 touchdowns. He added 847 yards and three touchdowns as a punt and kick returner. To meet the expectations that come with being compared with a player like Waddle would require quite the career for Earle.

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While Earle was also listed as a co-starter at punt returner, Bolden fielded three punts for 20 yards against Miami. Earle wasn't back for any returns in Week 1.

Earle did see the field on offense, though. He caught two passes for 25 yards.

Fans will have to hope Earle gets a chance to electrify in his first punt return opportunities against the Mercer Bears in Alabama's home opener Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium at 3 p.m. on the SEC Network.

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