Throughout Alabama's 2020 national championship football season, sophomore receiver John Metchie was viewed as a developing talent.
Moving forward, Metchie could be the face of the program.
The 6-foot, 195-pounder from Brampton, Canada, took his share of the pie from Alabama's 621-yard performance during Monday night's 52-24 thrashing of Ohio State in Miami Gardens, Florida, racking up eight receptions for 81 yards. Metchie finished this past season with 55 catches for 916 yards and six touchdowns, with his yardage total ranking 17th nationally.
"John Metchie played outstanding football for us all year," Alabama coach Nick Saban said Tuesday on a Zoom call. "He's got a lot of grit and toughness, because he's had a bad ankle for about the last half of the season. He actually didn't practice one play for all the practices we had for this last game other than the walk-throughs, and then he goes out and plays extremely well in the game. He didn't make it through the game, but I think it shows a lot of competitive toughness, a lot of grit, a lot of determination and a lot of mental toughness to be able to go through and do what he did.
"I think all those things are going to serve him well in the future in terms of his continued growth as a player, and his production and performance I think will sort of verify that next year, because the guy is a very talented guy. He's a hard worker, and it's important to him."
Metchie began this past season as a distant third option behind senior DeVonta Smith, the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, and junior Jaylen Waddle. He introduced himself to the college football world during the Crimson Tide's second game of the season, a 52-24 whipping of Texas A&M inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, by amassing five catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns.
Waddle's broken ankle on the opening kickoff at Tennessee elevated Metchie to Smith's top backup for quarterback Mac Jones, but Smith thrived no matter how many defenders covered him, and Metchie was fine with that.
"This has been an amazing team," Metchie said after Monday night's game. "Just our ability to fight through personal adversity and team adversity, to be able to come together and to be able to get down to the nitty-gritty of football and just persevere, really — I love this team. This is a really great team."
Alabama produced a slew of highlights this past season, from Smith's one-handed touchdown grab at LSU to the Najee Harris hurdle on a 53-yard run against Notre Dame in the national semifinal Rose Bowl, but Metchie may have provided the most important one.
Midway through the first quarter of the Southeastern Conference championship contest against Florida, a Jones pass to tight end Miller Forristall was stripped by safety Trey Dean at the Gators' 12-yard line. Dean began running up the field before getting leveled by Metchie, who caused a fumble that was recovered quickly by Smith.
Jones and Smith connected for a 31-yard touchdown on the ensuing snap, and that abrupt change in momentum proved key in Alabama's eventual 52-46 win. That was the only one-possession game the Tide experienced in their 13-0 season.
Metchie knows he will be counted on even more in 2021, and he is already accepting that challenge.
"We're just going to continue to work and continue to hold ourselves accountable and continue to hold myself to a high standard," Metchie said. "We set really high standards for us, so we have to reach it or exceed it. Going forward, it's continuing to build up what this program means and what this program does.
"We want to be able to get back to this point. This is what we do it for — to be able to continue and keep it going."
Smith is the SEC's all-time leader in four prominent receiving categories: yards (3,965), single-season yards (1,856), touchdowns (46) and single-season touchdowns (23). ... In 41 games over the past three seasons, Alabama has eclipsed 500 yards of total offense 29 times. ... Alabama's three Heisman Trophy winners — Mark Ingram (2009), Derrick Henry (2015) and Smith — won national championships that same season.