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Expectations for Eagles rookie DeVonta Smith keep getting higher

“This guy is blazingly fast and looks like he has springs on the bottom of his shoes the way he goes up,” longtime Eagles announcer Merrill Reese said of Smith.

Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith makes a catch during practice at Lincoln Financial Field last month.
Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith makes a catch during practice at Lincoln Financial Field last month.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

DeVonta Smith may soon need to buy a new trophy case.

The Eagles rookie wide receiver and Alabama standout has already been awarded the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, was the first receiver ever named AP national player of the year, and was a unanimous All-American last year.

On Wednesday, he was named the Roy F. Kramer SEC Male Athlete of the Year.

It’s not really a surprise that Smith, 22, was awarded yet another prize — he scored 24 touchdowns last season for Alabama, and obliterated the SEC record for career touchdown catches with 46 (the previous mark of 31 was shared by the Tide’s Amari Cooper and Florida’s Chris Doering). Smith also hauled in 117 catches and racked up 1,856 yards last season on the way to his second National Championship.

“If there’s an award/trophy, he’s winning it. If there’s a workout he’s 15 minutes early for it. Earned everything he’s getting and deserves 10x more,” Matt Rhea, the director of sport science at Alabama, wrote on Twitter.

» READ MORE: DeVonta Smith’s character was forged from his mom’s values in a tiny Louisiana town

Despite his size (a few cheesesteaks will help), expectations are sky high for Smith, whom the Eagles traded up for to select with the 10th pick in this year’s NFL draft. Training camp begins July 27, and needless to say all eyes will be on the young receiver.

“In 50 years, I’ve seen a lot of wide receivers and I’ve seen great ones like Harold Carmichael, who’s going into the Hall of Fame, and my partner in the booth, Mike Quick, who went to five Pro Bowls. So I’ve seen great receivers,” Eagles announcer Merrill Reese said on a recent episode of the Eagle Eye podcast. “But I’ve never seen a receiver that makes my jaw drop the way that he does.”

“This guy is blazingly fast and looks like he has springs on the bottom of his shoes the way he goes up,” Reese said of Smith. “And he may be 6-1½ but he has catch radius of somebody 6-4.”

NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund also has high expectations for Smith, predicting he will be one of the most productive rookie receivers this season:

His 4.0 receiving yards per route run over the past two seasons topped the FBS charts. Computer vision shows that, last year, the Heisman Trophy winner had the highest percentage of receptions in which he had more than 3 feet of separation at the time of the catch despite a defender being within 3 feet of him on the path of the route. This carries over into yards after the catch; Smith increased his speed once he had the ball in his hands at the third-highest rate in the FBS in 2020.

New Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said he was impressed by Smith during the team’s OTA practices back in May.

“As advertised, he catches everything,” Sirianni said. “That ball touches his hands, he catches it. He’s really long. I think you guys saw that, right? He’s got long arms, and he’s got a big catch radius.

“He showed his unbelievable hands, and he showed — I just thought he showed excellent, excellent ability to change directions at the top of the route,” Sirianni added. “Even better than what I saw on tape, to be 100% honest with you.”

Smith should also benefit from being reunited with former Alabama teammate Jalen Hurts, who will be the Eagles starting quarterback after the team shipped Carson Wentz away to Indianapolis.

While in Alabama last month hosting a youth football camp, clips of Hurts tossing some long bombs to Smith went viral, a potential glimpse at what Eagles fans can expect this season.

» READ MORE: Why Jalen Hurts wasn’t on Chris Simms’ Top 40 quarterback list