By Hunter Jones/Special to The Tuscaloosa News
DeVonta Smith is looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2018. In an Alabama receiver group that boasts Biletnikoff winner Jerry Jeudy, potential first-round NFL Draft pick Henry Ruggs III and SEC Freshman of the Year Jaylen Waddle, Smith will be fighting for reps in one of the deepest position groups in the country. However, he sees it as an opportunity for a lot of team success.
“I think it’s really difficult try to cover four guys that have great speed and just able to get the ball out in space and be able to do more things with it,” Smith said.
Another perk of a deep receiving group is being able to watch the other guys in practice.
“We all learn from each other, so it’s not like when you get out you’re just not paying attention, like you’re paying attention to what the other receivers are doing because we all learn from each other,” Smith said.
One common stereotype of wide receivers is they want the ball every play. With an outstanding group like the one at Alabama, that could complicate things. But Smith said this receiving group is different.
“It’s great, just us knowing that everybody is happy for each other, it makes the room just lighten up more,” Smith said. “It’s not a room where people are hating on each other, it’s a room where everybody is happy for each other, and I think that just brings the best out in all of us.”
Crimson Tide free safety Xavier McKinney was asked to describe each receiver using just one word. He used one for all of them: fast.
“They are all the same, literally, they all do the same stuff the same exact way,” McKinney said. “They might not be in that road to showcase that, but in practice, if you go to the practice and you watch, you’ll see it, there’s no difference.”
Despite having only eight catches for 160 yards and three touchdowns in his freshman season, Smith put himself on the map when he caught the now-famous 41-yard pass from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in overtime to win the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship. Despite a hamstring injury slowing down Smith’s sophomore season, he still finished with 42 catches for 693 yards and six touchdowns.
“Injuries are a part of the game, but like I said there is still, in my opinion, there’s no drop-off,” McKinney said. “From Smitty (Smith) to Jude (Jeudy), from Jude to Ruggs, from Ruggs to Waddle, really none of the guys. Even the guys that aren’t playing like, they’re just as good as the guys that are playing, but you know they just got to wait their time, but you know all of those guys are real talented.”