BamaInsider - Where Alabama stands at WR heading into Cotton Bowl against Cincinnati
football Edit

Where Alabama stands at WR heading into Cotton Bowl against Cincinnati

Alabama learned its postseason fate Sunday as it was named the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff, setting up a semifinal matchup against No. 4 Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31.

The Crimson Tide also learned that its playoff run will have to come without its leading pass-catcher as Nick Saban confirmed that starting wide receiver John Metchie III will miss the remainder of the season with an ACL injury he suffered during Saturday’s SEC Championship Game.

Metchie injured his knee on Alabama’s final drive of the half during the Crimson Tide’s 41-24 victory over Georgia. Through 13 games, the junior leads the team with 96 receptions and has recorded 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns through the air.

On a positive note, Saban said receiver JoJo Earle is progressing nicely from an injury he suffered against New Mexico State on Nov. 13. The freshman dressed out and was fielding punts during pregame warmups Saturday but did not appear in the game.

Earle has appeared in 10 games, making one starting the Week 4 matchup against Southern Miss. He has 12 catches for 148 yards and is averaging 6.79 yards on 14 punt returns.

Sunday, Saban said Earle’s status for Alabama’s Cotton Bowl matchup will be evaluated when the team begins practicing again. Last week, the head coach said the freshman receiver "probably will be back sometime shortly.”

“He is getting to the point where he's dry-land running,” Saban said Sunday, “and has some opportunity to come back and play this game."

Earle isn’t necessarily a replacement for Metchie. According to Pro Football Focus, the 5-foot-10, 170-pound receiver has spent 119 snaps in the slot as compared to just 22 on the perimeter. Conversely, Metchie spent the majority of his snaps outside, lining up 530 times on the perimeter and 236 times in the slot.

When healthy, it’s more likely that Earle will serve as a complementary option to redshirt junior Slade Bolden at slot receiver. Bolden, who is third on the team with 33 receptions for 333 yards to go with a pair of touchdowns, has spent 457 snaps inside and just 46 on the perimeter.

The likelier options to replace Metchie are freshman Ja’Corey Brooks and sophomore Traeshon Holden.

Brooks saw filled in the majority of Metchie’s absence Saturday, recording one reception for 9 yards while spending 35 snaps as an outside receiver and five in the slot. Through 13 games the 6-foot-2, 190-pound receiver has five receptions for 79 yards, including the game-tying 28-yard touchdown during the fourth quarter of Alabama’s Iron Bowl victory over Auburn.

Holden recorded two receptions for 21 yards over five snaps against Georgia, lining up four times on the perimeter and once in the slot. The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder has 15 receptions for 211 yards and a touchdown over 12 appearances this season.

Both Brooks and Holden also contribute as nice blocking options on the outside. Brooks leads all Tide receivers with a 69.9 run-blocking grade from PFF, while Holden ranks second in the unit with a 66.4 mark.

Alabama will need all the help it can at the receiver position as it is set to face a Cincinnati secondary that ranks No. 2 in the nation in passing defense, holding opponents to 168.3 yards per game through the air.

Alabama’s Cotton Bowl matchup against Cincinnati will take place inside A&T Stadium in Arlington Texas on Dec 31. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CT with the game airing on ESPN.

Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver JoJo Earle. Photo | Getty Images
Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver JoJo Earle. Photo | Getty Images