Should Alabama football's star wideout DeVonta Smith be a Heisman Trophy contender?

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

BATON ROUGE, La. — In the opening weeks of the season, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones rapidly ascended from unproven heir apparent to national star. Just a few weeks after many were unsure if he was fit for the task, he was being projected to a Heisman Trophy.

As the regular season ends, Alabama may have a player more worthy of the trophy.

DeVonta Smith’s eight catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns, on the surface, was the nation’s best wide receiver torching the SEC’s worst pass defense. But it was also in Alabama’s annual meeting with LSU, one that draws national attention even when the two teams are as far apart as they were on Saturday.

That national presence saw Smith make a case that he is the one worthy of Heisman Trophy consideration.

“I love Smitty,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “I think he’s an outstanding player for our team, has probably done as much for our team as any player that we’ve ever had. He’s a great leader on the team.

"It’s not fair to compare him to somebody else you didn’t even see, but I don’t think there’s many players in the country that have done more for their team than Smitty has done for our team.”

What he’s done is catch 80 passes for 1,305 yards and 15 touchdowns — all surpassing his 2019 totals, doing more in nine games what he did in 13 last season. In the process, he has broken the school and SEC records for career receiving touchdowns, worked his way within a few dozen yards of the school record for career receiving yards and now within range of the school record for career receptions.

There was no personal breakthrough between last season and this one to make this possible. It was a matter of opportunity.

“He was an outstanding player last year, but we also had three other receivers that were outstanding players, so none of them really stood out like Smitty has stood out this year,” Saban said. “Because we feature him a lot, (LSU) doubled him a lot, they matched up (star cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.) on him a lot, so he had some challenges out there today because they were trying to take him out of the game. He still performed well.”

Smith has not been mentioned seriously as a Heisman Trophy candidate, largely thanks to the presence of prominent quarterbacks such as his own, Mac Jones, plus Florida’s Kyle Trask, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. That’s also not where his motivation lies.

“Ultimately, I’m here to win a championship,” Smith said. “If I’m in the Heisman race, I’m in it, but I’m ultimately here to win a championship. That’s the reason I came back.”

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