After five games, DeVonta Smith leads the team in receiving yards— just like everyone was predicting. I don’t mean that as a knock against the talented wide receiver, just that Smith finished fifth in receiving yards last year (though he was dealing with an injury for part of the season). Now, his 537 yards put him in first, ahead of Jerry Jeudy’s 488 yards.
He recorded 274 receiving yards, a single-game school record, against Ole Miss on 11 receptions, 5 of which went for touchdowns, also a single-game school record. Let’s take a look at those touchdowns.
2nd and 10: Smith (#6) is in the slot on the left. The nickel back is in off coverage, seven yards back from the line. Tagovailoa (#13) sees the linebacker play the run, so he pulls the ball and goes right to Smith, who’s running a slant. Tagovailoa puts it right on the money, and Smith catches it with both hands out in front. The nickel tries to close but can’t get there in time and whiffs. The deep safety had also crashed down to play the run, so there’s nobody left to stop Smith, who jogs 60 yards into the endzone.
3rd and 8: Smith is the outside receiver on the left (very bottom). Smith just runs a shallow crossing route, and Ole Miss is in big trouble since they’re in man coverage. This is designed to go to Smith. The slot receiver on his side and the two receivers on the other side all run go routes to draw the defense deep and clear out space. Najee Harris (#22) goes down the right seam and positions himself to block the inside linebacker. The crossing route takes advantage of Smith’s speed and leaves the corner trailing him. On a third and long, Alabama calls a pass at or near the line of scrimmage, and it works perfectly. Smith catches it and loops upfield. The corner dives at his feet, but Smith keeps his balance, outruns the linebacker, and keeps his balance when the safety desperately tries to tackle him near the goal line.
3rd and 10: Third and long, and Alabama turns to DeVonta Smith near the line of scrimmage again. Smith is the outside receiver at the top of the screen with Jerry Jeudy (#4) in the slot. Jeudy stems to the outside before heading upfield while Smith turns towards Tagovailoa and takes a couple steps back. Jeudy gives the corner opposite Smith pause, but he’s still closes quickly and has a shot at making the tackle. Smith shrugs off the attempted ankle tackle and stays on his feet. He hits the jets and takes off down the sideline with a clear avenue, thanks to an excellent block by Jeudy, to the endzone.
1st and 15: You can’t see the beginning, but Jeudy motions from left to right, going behind Tagovailoa. This is just eye candy. Tight end Miller Forristall (#87) is on the left; and his route breaks towards the middle of the field, drawing the safety with him. This leaves Smith, the lone wideout on the left, one-on-one with the corner on a post route. The defensive back gives Smith a little shove when he starts his break, which doesn’t do anything. Smith has a couple steps on the corner, and Tagovailoa throws it out ahead of Smith, who jumps and hauls it in.
1st and 10: To me, this is Smith’s most impressive touchdown catch. He’s one-on-one with the cornerback, who’s in press coverage. Smith releases to the outside, and the corner lets him get a clean release. There’s hand-fighting down the sideline; and Smith manages to get a slight bit of separation, though the corner keeps a hand on him the whole time. Still, Smith goes up and highpoints the ball. He secures it, keeps his feet in bounds, and falls into the endzone, all the while dealing with the corner.