TUSCALOOSA — It might have been a retaliation, but DeVonta Smith's return volley on Texas A&M safety Leon O'Neal Jr. late in last Saturday's 47-28 win proved especially costly.
Alabama's leading receiver will be suspended for the first half of Saturday night's game against Tennessee, according to head coach Nick Saban. The suspension is part of internal discipline for Smith's ejection on the final offensive series against the Aggies after punching O'Neal following an on-field scuffle.
Saban said Smith's "retaliation is something that really can’t be tolerated and I think is a lesson that all players need to learn from in terms of you can’t make emotional decisions on the field."
Saban later clarified Smith's "discipline" would be greater than the one-quarter suspension Smith and fellow junior starters Najee Harris, Terrell Lewis and Brian Robinson Jr. received for the season-opener against Duke after reportedly missing a team function during the preseason.
"I think this is a little more significant than that and this warrants a half when you do something like this," Saban said, "which I think the (SEC) conference office would agree with. Hopefully our players can learn from this."
Smith leads No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) with 636 receiving yards on 38 receptions and a conference-leading nine receiving touchdowns this season, with much of his production — 26 catches for 509 yards and eight touchdowns — coming against SEC opponents.
Of course, with a wealth of talent at the receiver position, including defending Biletnikoff Award winner Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and sophomore Jaylen Waddle, the Crimson Tide offense should be able to withstand Smith's absence for the first 30 minutes Saturday.
"Smitty’s a great guy. He’s one of the best guys, hardest workers, does everything right," Saban said of Smith. "But it doesn’t make any difference. When you make emotional decisions, (when) you don’t have a brain (and) you make bad decisions, sometimes they lead to consequences."
Night lights: Xavier McKinney and Jaylen Waddle have seen the videos of Bryant-Denny Stadium’s brand-new light show on social media. Now they’ll get to see it in person.
And after a month of day games, which don’t allow for much utilization of the stadium’s newly-installed LED lighting system, Alabama will finally get the opportunity to show off its flashy new toy when the top-ranked Crimson Tide kick off against Tennessee (2-4, 1-2 SEC) at 8 p.m. Saturday on ESPN.
“Yeah, I saw that on Instagram, they showed a display of it,” McKinney said Monday. “We haven’t seen it yet, but I’m sure it’ll be cool though.”
The official team Twitter and Instagram accounts have posted several aerial videos of the lights getting tested in mid-August after the summer-installation and again last month after Saturday’s game time was announced.
The LED lights can alternate colors — though the expectation is they’ll be some form of crimson much of the game — and sync to music to create a strobe-like look after big moments in the game such as when Alabama scores touchdowns.
“I'm anxious to see how they look but I'm just happy that we get to play a night game,” junior linebacker Terrell Lewis said Monday.
McKinney even believes the stadium light show could add more energy to the game.
“For sure, I think it will,” McKinney said. “And I think it’ll be great for the fans to have that type of lighting going around in the stadium. I think it will create energy.”
UT’s Pruitt jokes: Midway through the regular season, no opponent has shown any ability to slow down Alabama’s potent scoring offense, which ranks second nationally averaging 51 points per game — behind only LSU (52.5).
Led by an aggressive passing attack that ranks third nationally averaging 366 yards through the air, the wealth of the Crimson Tide’s offensive firepower is practically unmatched.
In fact, those weapons have forced many a defensive coach to consider some outside-the-box thinking when it comes to facing Alabama. That now includes Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt.
“You know there’s a high school team over in Arkansas and they never punt, ‘cause … I don’t know, I’ve never seen them play but I’ve always heard people talk about it,” Pruitt said Monday, referring to Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. “So, we’ve really kind of considered that as our gameplan — just don’t give them the ball, if we can do that.”
While he hardly cracked a smile during his response, Pruitt’s consideration of onside kicking every time might just be a joke. But the fact that he even brought it up as a suggestion further highlights just how dangerous Alabama’s offense has been this season.
“They stretch you all over the field, (so) you’ve got to be able to take something away,” Pruitt said. “You’ve got to be able to play in space, you’ve got to tackle in space. Do they throw the ball down the field? Sure they do.
“ When you look at them throwing the football, they (utilize) the RPO game a lot. … They throw every type of pass you can imagine, they’ve got good players they’re throwing it to, they do a nice job in protection, and when they want to run the football, they’ve had no issues running it. So, it’s hard to find a weakness on the offense.”