Position Rankings: Southland Receiving Units

We're ranking receiver/tightend units for the Southland.

Here's the lowdown. We look at returning players paying special attention to catches returning, yardage, yards per catch, and impactful newcomers. We don't have those nifty target and catch rate stats like the FBS schools have but whatever. It ain't stopping us.

Again rosters are a work in progress for a lot of these teams so we don't guarantee 100% accuracy.

Runningbacks don't count, they have their own category. Let's go crazy.

1. Central Arkansas

Returning Catches  % of Catches Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yards Per Catch 
270   89.70%  3284  91.02%  12.16 
 Dezmin Lewis

Dezmin Lewis

Six players who caught 30 or more balls return for the Bears in 2014. The Bears were second in passing offense in the Southland to SFA.

So why do we have UCA ahead of SFA in our rankings? Did we mention that six guys caught 30 or more passes last season and return this season? Oh and all but 1 of the top 12 pass catchers return.

The Bud likes Dezmin Lewis at 6-4 215 out of North Mesquite. That's NFL size for those of you scoring at home. Damian Watts, a senior out of Pleasant Grove, is a pre-season All-Southland pick who averaged 19 yards a grab last year.

2. Stephen F. Austin

Returning Catches  % of Catches Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yards Per Catch 
227   71.16%  3238  74.21%  14.26 
 Tyler Boyd

Tyler Boyd

Tyler Boyd and D.J. ward combined for 140 catches and 15 touchdowns last year and now there back for more. Boyd is a preseason All-Southland selection who led the Lumberjacks with over 1,100 receiving yards last season.

The Lumberjacks played chuck and duck last season, attempting over 60 more passes than the next closest team in the Southland. The Jacks only lose one of their top eight receivers from last year's team, All-Southland pick Michael Brooks, who accounted for 76 catches, good for second on the team.

In the end 1 and 2 on this list are essentially a pick'em.

3. Lamar

Returning Catches  % of Catches Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yards Per Catch 
180   73.17%  2124  72.49%  11.80 
 Reggie Begelton

Reggie Begelton

Don't look now but Lamar morphed into a passing team. A year removed from being dead last in the Southland in passing offense the Cardinals rebounded with quarterback Caleb Berry and almost doubled their output through the air in 2013.

The bad news for the rest of the Southland is that almost everyone one is back for the Cards. That includes Reggie Begelton the local kid out of Westbrook who caught 82 passes to lead the Southland in 2013.

Lamar could do to spread the wealth a bit however. After Begelton, the number two receiver had 33 catches. Berry may need to look his best buddy off a bit more this season.

4. Northwestern State

Returning Catches  % of Catches Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yards Per Catch 
155   74.88%  1648  68.16%  10.63 
 Tuff McClain

Tuff McClain

The Demons are a dark horse to win this sucker. We've said that before. Eventually we'll be right.

Eight of the top nine receivers from last season return as does trigger man Zach Adkins. The Bud likes Tuff McClain, not only for his name but also for his 13.5 yard per catch average. If there's a beef with the Demons' attack it may well be the difficulty they had stretching the field. Northwestern State was last in terms of yards per catch in the Southland last season.

The Demons also return Ed Eagan, the second leading receiver and a pretty decent return guy. Eagan is in his second season as a receiver after converting from cornerback.

5. Southeastern

Returning Catches  % of Catches Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yards Per Catch 
132   62.56%  1969  59.88%  15.58 
 Xavier Roberson

Xavier Roberson

Southeastern loses two of its top three receivers from 2013. More accurately, they lost almost 40% of the their receiver/tightend catches. Tony McCrea, and Marquis Fruge are all gone. They took their 9 touchdowns with 'em as well.

The Lions will use Xavier Roberson more in the passing game, moving him from out wide from the backfield. When he has the ball in his hands he's threat to go to the paint every time. Jeff Smiley also returns along with his 57 catches and is a preseason All Southland selection.

They also have the luxury of a very dangerous quarterback threat. Bryan Bennett's  ability to influence the game with is legs alone will give his guys opportunities.

6. McNeese State

Returning Catches  % of Catches Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yards Per Catch 
83   43.92%  1249  45.03%  15.05 
 Ernest Celestie

Ernest Celestie

Ernest Celestie will be back for his 6th year at McNeese. That's good news for the Cowboys who could use a steady hand after the loss of their top two receivers from 2013.

Celestie is a pre-season All-Southland pick heading into 2015 after averaging almost 20 yards a catch last season. That's wonderful news for whoever is throwing passes for the Cowboys. Unlike Northwestern State, McNeese likes to throw it vertically. The Cowboys were second in the Southland in yards per catch last season.

Keep and eye on Zach Hetrick, a sophomore tight end from Baton Rouge. He only caught three balls in 2013 after moving over from defensive end, but folks in Lake Charles are pretty high on the guy.

7. Sam Houston State

Returning Catches  % of Catches Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yards Per Catch 
91  52.33%  1228  48.96%  13.49 

The losses hurt don't they Sam Houston. They just plain hurt.

 Shane Young

Shane Young

The Bearkats must replace Richard Sincere and Torrance Williams. Williams scored 12 times last season. Replacing a guy with his nose for the endzone, and a guy with a nose for a big place like Sincere won't be easy.

If anything this is an opportunity for the younger Kats to step up. Yedidiah Louis took his opportunity in the spring to step up and become a major player heading into fall camp. Sam Houston will transition into an Air Raid system that will do nothing but help this group.

It'll be interesting to see how the new staff use H-back/tight end Shane Young, a senior out of Lago Vista. Young caught 11 passes last season and is a preseason All Southland pick this year.

8. Abilene Christian

Returning Catches  % of Catches Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yards Per Catch 
63   28.51%  739  24.39%  11.73 
 DeMarcus Thompson

DeMarcus Thompson

Ok, we're shooting blind here. Going on reputation. ACU lost the bulk of their receiving playmakers from their 2013 squad that averaged 45 points and 316 yards per game in the air. We take all this with a grain of salt as the Cats did all that against a hodge podge schedule that included Division II schools, Southland schools, and even an FBS opponent.

They're starting over to a large degree at receiver, but the Bud likes DeMarcus Thompson and the tight end combination of Jonathan Parker and Noah Cheshire. Thompson is burner out of DeSoto who had 23 catches in 2013. Parker and Cheshire combined for 21 catches last season as well.

ACU has now established a track record of high flying pass offenses, averaging almost 3,500 yards since 2005. How that track record stacks up in the Southland is a big question.

9. Incarnate Word

Returning Catches  % of Catches Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yards Per Catch 
129   90.98%  1501  94.28%  12.40 

The Cards return almost everyone who caught a pass or had one thrown at 'em last year. The numbers indicate that UIW should be higher, the competition level gives us pause.

 Casey Jennings

Casey Jennings

Casey Jennings set a school record with 54 catches last year. Don't judge, UIW's only been around for a few years. Jennings was far and away the most popular option in the Cardinals passing game, but watch out for Klint Killough out of San Antonio MacArthur as well.

The Cardinals run game will open up some chances through the air.

Jordan Hicks, a sophomore, made the transition from quarterback to wide receiver last year and has impressed the coaches with his athleticism. Tight end Cole Wick is a large unit at 6-7 245, the Cards are hoping that size translates into production this year.

10. Nicholls State

Returning Catches  % of Catches Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yards Per Catch 
44   24.86%  553  23.77%  12.57 
 Keenan Canty

Keenan Canty

The Colonels lost their top five targets off their 2013 squad. Now bear in mind Nicholl's leading receiver only caught 24 passes in 2013 for some perspective. That would be a solid three game total at SFA.

Keenan Canty and Hakeem Flowers arrive on campus by way of FBS schools. Canty played at Colorado while Flowers went the junior college route after a stop at North Carolina State. Demon Bolt and Daryl Watson were tied for the lead with 14 receptions among the returning receivers and tight ends. Bolt also returns kicks for the Colonels.

Tight end Nick Scelfo battled injuries last season and it showed as he took a step back from consecutive All-Southland conference seasons. If he's healthy and returns to form it could be a big boost for Nicholls.

11. Houston Baptist

Returning Catches (7 games)  % of Catches Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yards Per Catch 
83   95.40%  977  93.58%  11.77 
 Wesley Lewis

Wesley Lewis

Houston Baptist has some pieces that work, just not enough to compete in the Southland. Two of those pieces are tightend Kenneth Bibbins and receiver Darian Lazard, both are seniors. 

Both transferred across town from U of H. Lazard led the Huskies with 22 catches while Bibbens contributed 17.

The Huskies spread the wealth last year with four players catching at least 15 balls in an abbreviated 7 game season. Redshirt freshman Wesley Lewis was the most successful of the young players, finding the endzone 3 times for HBU.


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