Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, John Metchie III enjoying even workload, statistical success

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Through the NFL draft and the transfer portal, Alabama lost the players responsible for 1,945 receiving yards last season and 17 receiving touchdowns. It created opportunity for someone to step into a huge statistical season, be it Jaylen Waddle elevating his depth chart status or a new wide receiver stepping into the third role.

The answer through four games is all of them, in ways that may not help them break individual records but will make Alabama’s offense even more dangerous.

Alabama is spreading its receiving workload through Waddle, DeVonta Smith and John Metchie III well, with all of them in the top six in the SEC in receiving yards through four games. Tennessee is tasked with corralling them all on Saturday.

“I think that's good just because teams can't just sit there and just be like, ‘Oh well we're going to focus on this person and that person,’ but really you have to focus on everybody in the offense because you never know whose day it's going to be,” Smith said.

Oct 17, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III (8) and Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) celebrate Metchie's touchdown during the first quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports

All three of them have had a day to themselves in the young season. Waddle had 134 yards and both touchdowns in UA’s season opener against Missouri; a week later, Metchie had 181 yards and two touchdowns against Texas A&M. In the next game, against Ole Miss, Smith jumped up to second in the SEC in receptions with 13 for 164 yards and a touchdown.

The numbers for the season also present the three as relatively equal threats. Smith leads the trio in receptions with 38, but Waddle has taken his 25 receptions for more yards with 557 to Smith’s 483. Metchie may drag behind the two with 14 receptions, but he leads them with 24.86 yards per reception to put him ahead of other receivers (South Carolina’s Shi Smith) that have 20 more catches than he does.

Nowhere is the production more even than touchdowns, where Smith and Waddle have four while Metchie has three. Continuing at this rate would be historic: all three are on pace for at least eight receiving touchdowns, which has happened just 10 times in school history. Smith produced one of those 10 seasons last year with 14 touchdowns.

The receivers are consistently complimentary (and complementary) of each other, but they know they aren’t the only ones involved. Waddle thinks UA offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian makes the equal opportunity possible.

“I think he does a good job of evaluating what the defense is doing. He talks to us a lot so he gets our view of things, and we go back and tell him what we think,” Waddle said. “I think we do a good job of communicating with each other to make those types of plays happen.”

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson