Alabama star wide receiver DeVonta Smith sets SEC record for career touchdown receptions

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Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith set an SEC record on Saturday when he hauled in his 32nd career touchdown reception in the No. 1 Crimson Tide’s game against Kentucky. Smith’s 10-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Mac Jones put Alabama ahead 14-3 in the second quarter, and pushed him past former Florida receiver Chris Doering and former Alabama star Amari Cooper in the league’s record books.

The senior from Amite, Louisiana, entered Saturday’s game as Alabama’s leading receiver on the season with 56 receptions for 759 and eight touchdowns after choosing to spurn the NFL Draft and return for his senior season.

Smith’s ascension to the top of the league record books is especially impressive considering that he entered his junior season last year with just nine career touchdown catches. But Smith exploded onto the scene for the Crimson Tide last year with 14 touchdown receptions to establish himself as one of the top receivers in the country entering the 2020 season. Alabama has become especially reliant on Smith this season since fellow star receiver Jaylen Waddle was likely lost for the season with injury against Tennessee on Oct. 24.

Though Smith would almost certainly have been selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, he explained in January why he wanted to return for another season. 

“While I’ve achieved a lot on the field,” Smith wrote, “I understand that football isn’t forever. I have to prepare myself for life after the game and the first step to doing that is getting my degree.”  

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Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers making his presence known

When Flowers named the receivers he wanted to model himself after, the only one was Brown.

“That’s basically it,” he said. “Nobody else.”

One of the benefits of the coaching staff assembled by Eagles’ first-year coach Jeff Hafley is its wealth of NFL experience. Their relationships make it easy to play six degrees of separation.

Early on, Flowers mentioned to offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti how much he studied Brown. Cignetti, who had NFL runs with the Rams, Giants, and Packers, happened to mention it to former Giants quarterback Geno Smith. Smith happened to be spending the quarantine working out with Brown.

Those workouts happened to be in Miami — a relatively short drive from Flowers.

Before Flowers knew it, he was running routes with the receiver he’d been dissecting for years.

“It’s just me Gino and AB working out on a golf course,” Flowers said.

Flowers was able to see Brown’s skill set up close. Brown broke down some of the intricacies of route running and catching deep balls. Flowers soaked it in.

BC wide receiver Zay Flowers looks upfield in a game against North Carolina earlier this month.
BC wide receiver Zay Flowers looks upfield in a game against North Carolina earlier this month.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

One detail Flowers took with him was catching deep balls over his outside shoulder and taking off. He flashed it last week in Boston College’s 31-30 win over Pitt when he raced up the middle of the field past Panthers defensive back Jason Pinnock, hauled in a pass over his left shoulder, and sped off the other way for a 77-yard touchdown.

He did it without thinking.

“It’s second nature now,” Flowers said.

In Hafley’s first season, BC has transformed into one of the best passing teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Flowers has been one of the most dangerous weapons in the Eagles air attack.

As a freshman a year ago, Flowers caught 22 passes for 341 yards in an offense that relied heavily on the run with second-round draft pick A.J. Dillon in the backfield. This season, Flowers reaped the benefits of a more open attack. He already has 21 catches for 405 yards and four touchdowns.

“I knew I could run routes, I just wasn’t able to show it,” Flowers said. “Last year I wasn’t able to show it because it was mostly run. This year, they’re just giving me a chance to run through every route and win my one-on-ones.”

Hafley knew it too. The first time he realized how dynamic Flowers could be was in a 1-on-1 drill.

“He goes right up in there, and I saw him release off the line and drop his hips and catch a comeback,” Hafley said. “I was like ‘Oh my gosh, this kid has got a live body.’ The way he’s twitched up and can move laterally, and accelerate, and how quickly he can gain ground, and then how quickly he can shut it down, that’s when I was like, ‘This kid is a receiver, and this kid has a chance to play.’”

Defensive back Josh

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