Alabama's wide receiver and special teams rooms have taken a hit during preseason camp as sophomore JoJo Earle will miss 6-8 weeks with a foot fracture, coach Nick Saban confirmed Wednesday. Earle, who is from Aledo, Texas, sustained the injury earlier in the week during preseason camp.
"The only injury that we have is JoJo got a Jones fracture in his foot in practice a couple days ago," said Saban. "Those things are probably 6-8 weeks, so we'll just have to see how it goes. But hopefully, maybe by Oct. 1 or something like that, he'll be close to being ready to come back."
Earle caught 12 passes for 148 yards as a freshman and added 16 punt returns for 88 yards. He was a preseason third-team All-SEC return specialist in the media poll held at SEC Media Days.
"He was doing a really, really good job, having a really good camp," Saban said. "Probably the best he's been on a consistent basis. Just saw a guy that grew up and was playing with a lot of confidence. We'll miss him for a while, but we want him to get well and I'm sure he'll contribute to the team at some point in time this year."
What does Earle's absence mean for the Crimson Tide? Let's break it down below.
One option gone from rebuilt WR corps
Alabama doesn't have an official depth chart, and when it is finally released, Saban will likely say that it isn't worth the paper on which it's printed. However, Earle was pegged as a potential starter on the Crimson Tide's rebuilt receiver corps heading into spring.
Saban lured veterans Jermaine Burton from Georgia and Tyler Harrell from Louisville via the transfer portal, but the other contenders for playing time don't have much experience. Earle, a 5-foot-10, 177-pound speedster who can provide a boost in a variety of ways, was expected to be a key contributor as a "Swiss Army Knife" for offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien. Sophomore Christian Leary had a solid spring game and is similar in stature to Earle, which makes him a likely candidate to fill Earle's projected role until he returns to the lineup.
What happens on special teams?
Earle garnered plenty of hype on the special teams side and was most likely the team's top option at punt returner. His absence will give some other players an opportunity, including several starters.
"[Earle] made a significant amount of improvement in judgment, fielding the balls and all those types of things," Saban said. "So we were encouraged by that. [Defensive back] Kool-Aid [McKinstry] has been back there. Jermaine Burton has been back there. So we'll just have to see."
Earle might not be one of the names that pops off of the Crimson Tide roster right now. But his absence early in the season -- including the Week 2 showdown with Texas in Austin -- will be felt.