What SEC Network's Chris Doering said about DeVonta Smith's breakout season, breaking his record
He didn’t know it at the time, but Chris Doering was on camera in studio when his SEC career record was broken.
Doering was a wide receiver for Florida from 1991-95, starting as a redshirt freshman walk-on and exiting as the SEC record holder for career receiving touchdowns. Doering’s record was tied by Amari Cooper in 2014, but it was unbeaten until DeVonta Smith’s 10-yard touchdown catch early in the second quarter against Kentucky, the 32nd of his career.
Doering’s reaction epitomized the inevitability of the moment.
“He’s just so steady,” he said.
Doering is now an analyst for the SEC Network and shared his insights with The Tuscaloosa News on Smith’s breakout season that already has him owning one SEC record with more on the horizon.
“He’s such a good route runner,” Doering said. “The thing that’s always stood out to me is how good his hands are. Most people on balls behind or aren’t perfect have to stop, dip their hip and reach back, and it takes away momentum. He trusts his hands so much to the point on throws most people cradle in, he turns his hands and catches with his thumbs, which is another sign of how much he truly trusts his hands.”
Smith’s hands were on display in his third touchdown against LSU, a leaping one-handed grab at the back of the end zone that will be prominent on his growing Heisman Trophy candidate highlight reel. Where Smith has been more impressive, as Doering sees it, is as a route runner.
“One of the big things you see around these chunk plays that Alabama makes are a lot of double moves," Doering said. "The temptation as a young player on the double move is to rush the setup to get past the defender, but in actuality, the more you’re patient selling the original move, the more likely you are to beat the guy. I’ve seen him this year be really patient to set guys up. He’s not chopping and just giving them a little head or shoulder turn.”
Doering provided the example of a touchdown Smith scored against Mississippi State, when the defensive back took inside leverage on an angled route Smith was taking to the inside. A younger receiver may have rushed the outward portion of the route to make a move on a defensive back with inside leverage. Smith carried out the full extent of the first move, setting up the defensive back for a more effective inside cut move.
Granted, a season that has taken down the SEC record for career touchdowns and will likely do the same for the school record for career receiving yards must contain more than an ability on double-move routes. Smith is consistently getting open on short and underneath routes due to another skill.
“The key to running routes is making everything look very similar. When he comes off the line of scrimmage, a lot of his routes look similar because there’s so many routes he can run off the same stem,” Doering said.
Smith leads the nation with 1,305 receiving yards and is tied for the national lead with 15 receiving touchdowns, but it may not come with the sport’s highest individual honor. Doering picked Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle to win the Heisman Trophy in the preseason, counting on excellence as a receiver and returner.
Since Smith does not have the latter, Doering does not think Smith will get the accolades he arguably deserves.
“I don’t know that there is going to be a receiver in this day and age that’s able to win the Heisman Trophy without having the return game involved,” he said. “I don’t think he’ll get the love he deserves.”