It's very fitting that Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith sees himself as the runaway choice to win the 2020 Heisman Trophy in a straw poll conducted by CBS Sports. After all, Smith ran away from defenses for most of the season.
The senior All-American was the only player to appear on all 26 ballots of Heisman voters surveyed by CBS Sports, and he totalled significantly more points than Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the runner-up. More than half the voters (14) had Smith No. 1 on their ballots.
Smith is the frontrunner to win the Heisman on Tuesday night after catching 105 passes for 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns so far this season. He leads the country in all three categories. Smith would be the first wideout to win the award since Michigan's Desmond Howard in 1991. Notre Dame's Tim Brown (1987) and Nebraska's Johnny Rodgers (1972) are the only other receivers in the modern era to win the award.
In our straw poll, as on the Heisman ballot itself, players were awarded three points for first-place votes, two points for second-place votes and one point for third-place votes. Contributors were granted anonymity in exchange for their ballots.
Smith stepped in as Jones' primary target after Alabama's Jaylen Waddle was injured Oct. 24 against Tennessee. Jones hooked up with Smith on 20 pass plays of at least 20 yards this season. Fifteen of those came after Waddle was injured. Smith and running back Najee Harris became the first set of teammates to each score 20 touchdowns, one receiving and one rushing.
Smith is already an Alabama legend having caught the national championship game-winning pass as a freshman in overtime to beat Georgia.
2020 Heisman Trophy straw poll
|Place||Finalist||Straw poll points||First-place votes|
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
Heisman ballots were due Dec. 24, so they didn't take into account Smith's record-setting performance in the College Football Playoff semifinal. In becoming the Rose Bowl offensive MVP, Smith's three touchdown catches against Notre Dame tied a Rose Bowl record. His 20 touchdown catches tied an SEC record set last year by LSU's Ja'Marr Chase.
"[The Waddle injury] created a unique opportunity for DeVonta Smith to be a guy where we had been spreading the wealth around so much for the last couple of years," Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said. "All of a sudden now he can become a real feature guy."
Lawrence is considered the presumptive No. 1 pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft next spring despite missing two games due to COVID-19 issues. Because of postponements and cancellations, Lawrence did not play for a 35-day period. Despite that, he led the Tigers to a sixth straight ACC title and a sixth consecutive CFP berth. Lawrence also led Clemson to the 2018 national championship.
Jones set an Alabama single-season passing record (4,306 yards). Trask was the midseason Heisman leader but faltered down the stretch, throwing five interceptions in his last three games. It didn't help that Florida had already lost three times before ballots were due.
Trask did lead the SEC in passing (4,283 games), throwing at least four touchdown passes in his first six games. He led the country with 43 touchdown passes, 11 more than the next passer.
Media from across the country were canvassed in the straw poll; however, the sample size represents a small portion of the 900-plus Heisman voters, a group that includes past winners. Others receiving votes in the straw poll included Harris, Iowa State RB Breece Hall and BYU QB Zach Wilson.