Before the crowd at Davis Wade Stadium was silenced, before Alabama head football coach Nick Saban achieved ultimate marital goals in kissing his wife – Miss Terry – after his post-game presser, and before the Crimson Tide’s final touchdown was scored, the wide receiver that would possess a massive clutch gene was revealed to yours truly prior to the beginning of the season.
It was a sweltering day in August, and Alabama was ready for its team photo.
In choosing a conversation with senior wide receiver Cam Sims, my question to him was who stands out as the most secure weapon on this team aside from Calvin Ridley? After taking a look around Bryant-Denny Stadium and watching the trio of Robert Foster, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, III all walk past him, the Louisiana native pointed me in the direction of Devonta Smith.
“Tay is the man,” Sims said. “He has a tremendous playing style.”
Like Sims, Smith hails from Louisiana.
An elite talent from Amite High School, he was listed at No. 227 on the ESPN 300 and was pegged as one of the more elusive targets in the 2017 recruiting cycle. From national signing day to fall practice, the 165-pounder (6-foot-1) was the overlooked target when it came to conversations on him, Jeudy and Ruggs.
Despite him pulling in his first-ever touchdown grab against Vanderbilt, all eyes were locked on Ruggs’ ability to score and Jeudy’s prowess catching everything his way.
He could’ve signed with Louisiana State University – seeing how it is 62 miles from Amite – but the biggest play from Saturday’s matchup between Alabama and Mississippi State came from the underrated one.
After dropping a pass early on, Jalen Hurts never lost sight of Smith.
With the game, a College Football Playoff seeding and dreams of a national championship on the line, the sophomore quarterback looked his way again.
Hurts fired a dart in the face of a blitz, and while executing a slant route, the freshman reeled in the pass, broke a tackle and scored.
The 26-yard hookup between Hurts and Smith gave the Tide a 31-24, and it would go on to eventually win by the same score – to the dismay of a highly-energetic Bulldog fan base.
His lone play of the game was a pressure catch, however, with both Louisiana and Texas experiencing the most turmoil when it comes to natural disasters, having a Hurts to Smith connection on what was the final score of the contest is something one just cannot script.
Going back to fall camp, I saw the acceleration, route running capabilities and quick hands of Smith on multiple occasions. If not for a missed defensive holding call versus Texas A&M, Smith probably has three scores on the season – due to him being wide open on the play.
Nick Saban has voiced all year about getting the young, explosive players more involved in the offensive system, and after seeing Smith emerge, the 66-year-old must be pleased.
Alabama improves to 10-0, and will face Mercer next week at home.