1. Texas A&M
The Ags are stacked at receiver. Talent, experience, and production. Christian Kirk leads the charge, Kirk exploded onto the scene from the season opener against Arizona State. Kirk caught 80 passes for over 1,000 yards as a freshman. A gifted return man, Kirk is a threat from anywhere on the field. He's joined by Rickey Seals-Jones, Josh Reynolds, and Damion Ratley in a deep and talented receiver group. If Speedy Noel can rectify his off-field troubles he'll be an asset as well.
The Aggies return three of the top 10 pass catchers from 2015. Reynolds, if possible, may be the most undervalued of the group. Silky smooth and all he did was catch 51 passes for over 900 yards, a near 18 yards per catch rate. Seals-Jones is a freakish athlete, with size, speed, and (at times) great hands. If any of the freshman can get on the field, chances are it'll be Quartney Davis out of Langham Creek.
TCU is a buffet of receiving talent, there's something for everybody. Want explosiveness? Meet KaVontae Turpin. Want a big-fast target? Here's Emmanuel Porter. Want a possession guy or two? Try out Ty Slanina or Desmon White. Want a comeback option? Here's Deante' Gray. Need a JUCO option? TCU's got 'em, Taj Williams and Ryan Parker. What about the obscure "guy who played at LSU last year but transferred?" Let me introduce John Diarse. The list goes on and on.
TCU returns 11 pass catchers from 2015. Those 11 guys averaged a 69% catch rate when targeted. Explosive and efficient. They add to that four or five impact first year players. The Frogs are stacked.
3. Texas Tech
Ok here's the deal, ratings on the Tech wide receiver corps doesn't matter. Tech will find plenty of guys to catch passes. More than we can forecast on our tiny website. The Caprock is a fertile land from which receivers magically spring. The Red Raiders return 222 catches and over 2900 receiving yards from their 2015 squad. But...they lost Jakeem. They lost Jakeem. If you don't know who Jakeem is, just leave. Get up, leave your computer and go back to reading books or talking to your family.
Jakeem Grant was pound for pound the best receiver in America. He caught twice an many passes as any receiver in Lubbock last year. He also ran and returned his way into explosive play after explosive play. So who replaces Jakeem? No one. But there are some guys who, as we've said before, that will catch passes, plenty of them. Devin Lauderdale leads an impressive group of returning pass catchers, having come second behind Grant with 43 catches. Ian Sadler averaged almost 1o yards a grab in 2015 and secured 42 receptions. Reginald Davis should be a producer as well. Another name to watch out for is Derrick Willies a JC transfer, who at 6'3 and 215 pounds gives the Red Raiders a big target they've lacked in recent years.
The Coogs lose all everything swiss army knife DeMarcus Ayers and his whopping 98 catches. They return almost everyone else. The next four reception leaders all return, including Isaiah Johnson who exploded onto the scene this spring. Chance Allen, Steven Dunbar, and Linell Bonner also return to run down Greg Ward's passes.
More on Allen in our spotlight section. It's around here somewhere. One newcomer to look out for is four star freshman Courtney Lark out of Bellaire who held offers from Baylor, Nebraska, TCU, and Tech.
Let me introduce you to the greatness that is John Burt. John Burt caught 28 balls as a true freshman. Scoff at that number if you will but remember who was throwing footballs to him last year. 28 catches in that offense may as well have been 50 with a decent trigger man. Yes we know Texas still lacks a decent trigger man, but John Burt could be a star. He and Armanti Foreman form a pretty good 1-2 threat.
Charlie Strong loves Jake Oliver. Jake Oliver didn't catch a ball in 2015, but Charlie Strong still loves him. Texas has a ton of guys with little production but huge upside. (See the earlier comment regarding the trigger man.) But no one can argue with the potential. DeAndre McNeil and Lorenzo Joe have a ton of potential. 6'6 true freshman Collin Johnson is looks the part as well. How does the potential translate? Sterlin Gilbert's offense will give these guys chances, the key will always be the trigger man.
The Bears are dangerous, forget about the offseason turmoil, Baylor still has players on campus and you need look no further than K.D. Cannon at the receiver position. Cannon came on as a true freshman with incredible productivity and, so long as his recent knee surgery heals up, he'll be a bigger part of the 2016 season. Outside of Cannon however, the Bears are inexperienced at receiver. Baylor will need to replace all everything Corey Coleman and the productive Jay Lee. That won't be easy, especially with the losses from the 2016 recruiting class. Last season Cannon, Coleman, and Lee accounted for 73% of Baylor's passing targets.
After from Cannon's 50 receptions, the next most receptions came from speedster Chris Platt with 11 and Lynx Hawthorn's 10, but there is potential among the youngsters - Art Briles knew how to find skill guys. A player to keep an eye on is 6'4 220 pound sophomore Ishmael Zamora who averaged 28 yards a return in 2015 and should step into a pass catching role in 2016.
This may be the deepest, best unit on SMU's team in 2016. Chad Morris knows about skill talent. Courtland Sutton erupted on the scene with 49 catches and almost 900 yards and over 17 yards a grab. At 6'4 and 215 pounds Sutton is not only rangy, but also physical. Sutton's 9 touchdowns led the team. Counter that with 5'11 Xavier Castille, who added another 23 catches, second on the team. The coaches expect Castille to make a jump in 2016. Their both sophomores.
Two redshirt freshman, Alex Honey and James Proche, are expected to play big roles in 2016. They'll join players like Jeremiah Gates, Ryheem Malone, and Kevin Thomas who return this season for Chad Morris' high octane offense.
If you don't know who Kerry Thomas Jr. is, get to know him. Dude caught 52 passes with a 65% catch rate. 52 catches is good enough for third among returning wide receivers and tight ends. He's a great security blanket for whomever holds down the UTSA quarterback job. Add to that JaBryce Taylor who looks like a home run hitter. Aron Taylor gives the runners a nice trio of targets.
Now the trick for UTSA is they have to replace two productive players, the second best player in UTSA history David Morgan and gritty, gutty Aaron Grubb, the Wes Welker of the 1604 loop. The guys that return from UTSA's receiving corps catch balls. I know that seems redundant, perhaps a better way to put it is they catch a higher rate of passes top to bottom than most groups. UTSA returning receivers caught on average 62.2% of all passes thrown to them. Three guys caught 70% or higher of targeted throws.
The Roundup likes UTEP's group of receivers. We like them a lot. We're not committing to asking them to prom, but their definitely in the mix. Five of the top six pass catchers return for 2016, including that rarity, a pass catching/blocking tight end in Hayden Plinke. Jaquan White is actually the leading returning receiver, he was targeted as much as Plinke and caught 41 balls. A note, White caught 41 passes from UTEP QBs in 2015, a group of quarterbacks that didn't exactly set the world aflame.
Cole Freytag has the best hands on the team and had the best spring of the receivers. Terry Juniel, a JC transfer who sat out last year with injury, looks to make an impact in the slot along with a pretty productive Tyler Batson giving the offense legs on the outside.
Rice returns seven on their top eight pass catchers from 2015. That's great news if you're an Owl fan, now you just need those guys to be better in 2016. Not a ton of explosive playmakers, the most explosive Nate German may very well be playing quarterback in the fall. The Owls are looking for a guy or several guys that can stretch opposing defenses. The Owls totaled only 8 plays of 40 yards or more in 2015. With an experienced offensive line and run game that should improve.
Zach Wright is the most experienced returning receiver with 39 catches in 2015 and 25 in 2014. He was the guy outgoing quarterback Driphus Jackson looked to when he was in a pinch. Junior Temi Alaka may be the most athletic of the Owl receivers and could be in line for a big 2016. The Roundup loves the Owls bevy of tightends, Connor Cella and 6'7 Cole Hunt. We expect Rice to improve in 2016, a returning, experienced core receiving group will help.
11. North Texas
As a whole, UNT receivers couldn't...you know...catch. Graham Harrell and the offensive staff are well versed in the old Mike Leach Air Raid offense. We say old, it was like 10 years ago. They'll need to find guys that can...you know...catch.
We're hoping for Tee Goree or O'Keeron Rutherford, Carthage teammates, to emerge as a number one receiver. This is their chance. Those two and Turner Smiley will play rock paper scissors to work that out. None were productive in 2015. Smiley caught only 41% of targets. Goree wasn't much better. The 6'5 Rutherford caught all of 3 passes for 17 yards.
UNT are hoping that second year JC transfer Thaddeaus Thompson step up and 6'5 RS freshman Rodney Bendy is a factor as well. Give the Mean Green this, their receiving corps looks like a basketball team with their height. Sadly, they catch footballs like a basketball team as well.
12. Texas State
Ok, we've got a problem here. Texas State sustained heavy losses on the receiving corps from 2015. Who's left? Of 188 catches from 2015 only 5 remain. Of 292 target opportunities among wide receivers, 6 targets remain. Damun Mercer the leading retuning receiver with 31 grabs was kicked off the team this spring. So were Justin Gamble and Brice Gunter.
Everett Withers and his offensive staff are starting from scratch in 2016. The hope is that some of the JC signees come in and make an instant impact. Elijah King is the most likely impact addition. Former quarterback L.G. Williams makes the move to receiver for the fall and why not, the position is wide open.