There is no better season than 2020 – a pandemic season where curtailed and staggered schedules affect the Heisman résumés of many top players – to give the trophy to a wide audience. Alabama star DeVonta Smith just won’t say it.
After seven receptions for 130 yards and three touchdowns against Notre Dame at the Rose Bowl, Smith continued to focus on the state of Ohio and the national championship game when asked about his plans for the Heisman ceremony on Tuesday (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN / ESPN App).
“Get on and off,” said Smith, who is only the ninth recipient who is the finalist.
If Smith is the third recipient to take the Heisman home – and the first since Desmond Howard in 1991 – he has no self-promotion to thank.
“The Slim Reaper” was the most prolific broadband receiver on the FBS during the regular season. Even if the defense focused more on him after Jaylen Waddle sustained a right ankle injury against Tennessee on Oct. 24, Smith finished first in receptions (98) and receptions (1,511) and second in all-purpose yards (1,767 ) and receiving touchdowns (17).
And he’s not finished yet. With Alabama playing Ohio State for a national championship on Jan. 11 (8 p.m. ET on ESPN / ESPN App), Smith could break the record for receptions held by Amari Cooper, 228, the SEC’s one-season touchdown, in Alabama in a very good season breaking reception record (he’s currently with Ja’Marr Chase at 20) and the SEC career record of Jordan Matthews (3,759). He could also be the first player in FBS to have more than 20 touchdowns in a season since Davante Adams had 24 for Fresno State in 2013.
All on an SEC-only schedule, plus a Rose Bowl and a national championship game, and without the softballs that Alabama usually has on the schedule.
With all votes in by December 21st, neither Smith’s Rose Bowl production nor the title game will contribute to his Heisman campaign. But he doesn’t need these games on his resume. He’s already done something should Be a bulletproof case even in a non-pandemic season, including Twitter breaking games (traditionally known as Heisman Moments) like a jaw-dropping one-handed touchdown catch against LSU on December 5th and an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown against Arkansas on December 12th.
But despite Smith’s impressive season, his case is still up in the air as he wouldn’t be considered a suspension even in a normal year when the criteria aren’t exactly fair.
The Heisman Trophy is intended to honor the most outstanding player in the country, but historically it is primarily intended for quarterbacks and running backs. From 1973 to 1983 only running backs won. From 1984 to 2000, the winners were almost split with eight quarterbacks and six running backs (as well as Charles Woodson 1997). During this time, Tim Brown (1987) and Howard (1991) were the only two recipients to win the award (Johnny Rodgers, a recipient-listed multi-position player, also won in 1972). Signal callers have dominated since 2001: there were 16 quarterbacks, three running backs, and an obvious receiver snub (Larry Fitzgerald in 2003).
The previous winners largely reflect how the game was played in different eras – which is why broad recipients should now be more considerate of the award. The spread is the current standard offense in the game, so more quarterbacks win the Heisman and fewer running backs are considered.
But a broad recipient has not yet won the award in this new era. If quarterbacks in the Heisman conversation benefit from the way football is played today, so should the pass catchers.
Recipients have a different precedent to meet. In both previous cases where a recipient won, Brown and Howard relied on circumstances beyond the position of the most outstanding player in the country at their position.
“Unfortunately for [today’s wide receivers], the first broad receiver to win the Heisman, gave punts, kicks, played back in the backfield and did everything, “said Brown, referring to himself.” And then Desmond got behind me a few years later and did pretty much the same thing. “
When Amari Cooper, one of the youngest recipients to serve as a finalist when he had 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2014, ran for a Heisman, Brown knew he had to show he could do more than catch passes.
“I’ve been tough on Amari this year,” said Brown. “I was positive about him because I knew this kid was going to be great and I also knew he was going to have a good year. I knew that if he wasn’t back [returning punts]then it would be difficult for him to win the Heisman. “
And it’s not just about doing everything. Howard also noted that receivers “grapple with the fact that their quarterbacks really are the first source of the conversation,” saying he said some believe the fact that Smith Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones at the quarterback were against him had to be got under control.
“Some people may know Elvis [Grbac] Because you know he got a popular name because of Elvis Presley, you know what I’m saying? But no one ever confused Elvis as a Heisman candidate, “said Howard of the quarterback he caught passports from during his Heisman year.” Like, “Oh man, that guy in Michigan, he’s throwing the ball all over the field.” No. And that’s a huge difference when you’re dealing with DeVonta Smith. “
Brown said he needn’t worry about a quarterback overshadowing him at Notre Dame either.
“When Lou Holtz got there about our quarterback situation my senior year, we had to go to the wishbone because Tony Rice, you know, couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn when you got him six feet from it,” he said .
But even considering his quarterback is a solid Heisman candidate, it’s clear that Smith should win the award.
His piece speaks for itself. Former Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier can’t help but buy shares in Smith, who broke Chris Doering and Amari Cooper’s SEC record for touchdowns in one career.
“DeVonta, my gosh, I still remember when he was a real newbie when he hit the touchdown to beat Georgia for the national championship,” said Spurrier. “Nobody knew who he was, he was just flying down the sidelines and obviously Georgia was in bad coverage. Kind of cover 2 on this page – which doesn’t make sense – but that’s exactly what they did.
“And then we knew who he was, and then he walked quietly for a few more years, and then of course he’s right there this year as one of the best broadband receivers ever in college football.”
But people go with what they know, and quarterbacks and running backs have dominated the Heisman conversation for a long time. Brown acknowledged that familiarity affects how both past winners and the media vote.
“It’s really in the eye of the voter,” Brown said. “I’ve had a lot of conversations with Eddie George and what he’s looking for – he’s looking for Eddie George. He’s looking for a big bruise that dominates the game, who wants to take over the team and put the team on theirs and just dominate. .. I know we’ve talked about things like that in the past few years and we can all see them by the way we won the trophy. “
In other words, the award really stands for one thing.
“I rate the guys based on what I’ve seen this year,” said Brown. “You know, the trophy says ‘to the greatest player’ so I try to keep going: who was the most outstanding player this year?”
And in college football’s most bizarre season, Smith was the standout player with stats and style points that should be recognized as Heisman-worthy even in a non-pandemic year.
This year the story should be set aside. This broad recipient deserves the trophy.