TUSCALOOSA — During Sunday film study, it’s not hard to know when Alabama’s receivers are reviewing the previous game’s tape because you can usually hear them from the other side of the complex.
And the most recent session was particularly raucous thanks in large part to some eye-popping plays made by Crimson Tide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Jaylen Waddle, who combined for 15 catches and 227 yards receiving in Saturday’s 42-3 season-opening win over Duke.
“(It’s just) the reaction of the room, it’s something for you to laugh at,” receiver DeVonta Smith said. “You’re just like, ‘Wow, how does somebody do something like that?’”
Both Jeudy — who led No. 2 Alabama (1-0) with a career-high 10 catches for 137 yards and one touchdown — and Waddle are known for their sensational ability to make defenders miss and create yards after the catch, also known as YAC.
“All the time, all the time. No matter who it is, you always amazed when somebody does something like that,” Smith said.
But against Duke, the 6-foot-1 Jeudy was the Crimson Tide’s biggest playmaker in space, with more than 80 of his yards coming after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus, which awarded him an 87.1 receiver grade after hauling in 10 of his 13 targets.
When asked what goes through his mind when he catches the ball, Jeudy only had one thought: “score.”
“So, I just try to score and never let the first guy tackle me,” he said. “That’s my mindset when I catch the ball.”
Still, there were a couple of video game-like plays that Jeudy made that even had some of his teammates shaking their head.
“He’s got so many tools in his toolbox you never know what he’s going to do,” Tide senior cornerback Trevon Diggs said of Jeudy. “You always have to your Ps and Qs (in coverage, because) you’re always reacting to him. It’s hard to cover him in the slot because he’s off the ball and you can’t really touch him off the ball. (And then) he’s fast and breaks a lot (of tackles).”
For Jeudy, it’s simple: “When we get the ball, we just try to make something happen.”
But it’s how he does it that leaves many Alabama fans — and NFL scouts — with their jaws on the floor.
Jeudy’s third catch involved a rare double-spin move in which the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner initially caught a 9-yard hook at the 42. But rather than power his way forward past the first-down marker, Jeudy spun back inside and then spun a second time to shake Duke safety Dylan Singleton, as momentum took him 5 yards behind where Jeudy originally caught the ball.
The junior from South Florida then planted hard and simply sprinted down the left hash 10 yards before being run out of bounds at the Alabama 47. In all, Jeudy only got credit for a 14-yard gain and one of his eight first downs on the day, but the round-about way of getting there required a 24-yard effort.
His teammates certainly had fun with that clip Sunday.
“They were talking about (hitting) the ‘B’ button on Madden,” Jeudy said, referring to the X-Box controller button for spinning in the annual NFL video game franchise. “That was pretty funny. But we are really focused on what we could have done better.
“I probably didn’t have to do that (first) spin move. But it was just reaction and I just had to do that. Something like that is a waste of time, … but we watch film just to focus on what we could have done better.”
Alabama head coach Nick Saban admitted the luxury of having playmakers like Jeudy and Waddle can simplify an offensive game plan — which involves developing clever ways to get the ball to those receivers in space.
“That’s how we do it, try to get them the ball in space so they can catch it and run with it and try to block for them on the perimeter,” Saban said. “I think it’s important that those guys are all guys that have the ability to make plays (and) that we have ways to get them the ball so that we give them the opportunity to do that.”
That’s exactly what happened on Jeudy’s final reception Saturday.
With Jeudy lined up to the right on a first-and-10 from the Duke 21, Alabama junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa turned and fired a quick bubble screen to his No. 1 target 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage. As a Blue Devils defender closed on him, Jeudy spun to his left, and then hit Duke safety Marquis Waters with a stutter-step and stiff-arm before running past him down the right sideline and diving head first into the end zone between goal-line block from Ruggs and Waddle. The 21-yard touchdown capped a career afternoon for Jeudy and gave the Tide a commanding 35-3 lead late in the third quarter.
When asked about his uncanny ability to react and avoid defenders closing in on him, Jeudy attributed it to a supernatural sixth sense, sometimes referred to as proprioception.
“That’s all it is — I just feel it, really. It’s crazy how it works though,” Jeudy said. “Like, I can’t even see them, I just feel it. I don’t know I can’t really explain it. It’s something God gave me I guess.”