Position Rankings: Receivers

Our position preview continues with wide receivers. Which begs the question, what makes a good receiver? Glad we asked. Thanks to Bill Connelly we now know the catch and target rate for all receivers that were targeted more than ten times. Catching the ball is numero uno. Receivers have to catch the ball at a high rate, national average is 53%, anything above that is good. If you can get into the 60's that's great. 

We'd also like a receiver that can be physical. What we mean by that is a receiver that doesn't get knocked off routes easily, can fight for inside or outside position at the line of scrimmage, and create space using not just speed but hand fighting, arm extension and body position. Good route running is also critical. Recognizing man to man vs. zone and understanding how to beat those coverages is important as well. In todays game the ability to create after the catch is critical as well. With more teams running screens and horizontal schemes, what you do after the catch is almost as important as the catch itself.  

We rank the receiving groups for the 12 Texas FBS schools.

1. TCU

Returning Targets Returning Catches Returning Receiving Yards Returning Catch Rate Percentage of Catches Returning Target % Returning
345 206 2640 59.7% 89.6% 89.8%

There aren't enough balls to go around in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs return just about every player who caught a pass in 2016.


Superlatives:

Best of the Power 5: Christian Kirk

Best of the G5: Linell Bonner

Top Newcomer: Jhamon Ausbon

The key guy is KeVontae Turpin, the undersized big play threat. Turpin battled injuries last season that hampered his numbers, but he still caught 73% of his targets. He has great balance and vision with the ball in his hands. He excels as a return man. This spring Turpin battled academics. Assuming he's back, that's a huge piece of the puzzle. TCU has a lot of pieces.


John Diarse, an LSU transfer in 2016, has paid huge dividends. He caught 66% of his targets last fall. He's a big target with strong hands. He plays with great physicality as well, tough to handle on slants and 50/50 balls. If senior Ty Slanina can stay healthy, he's a very good inside target who isn't afraid of contact.

TCU has a wide, varied, talented stock of receivers. They come in all shapes and sizes. Getting the ball to these guys and using them is a luxury that Sonny Cumbie and Sonny Dykes will deal with this fall.

Desmon White was an electric quarterback at DeSoto at five feet-seven inches tall. He's become a great slot target. So has Daniel Walsh, a California native who came to TCU because of his love of LaDainian Tomlinson. Taj Williams and Daniel Porter are both 6-4. Neither caught targets above national average in 2016. Drops have been an issues for TCU and a concern for Gary Patterson moving through the spring. TCU will run out the deepest and perhaps most talented group of receivers the Big 12.

2. Texas

Returning Targets Returning Catches Returning Receiving Yards Returning Catch Rate Percentage of Catches Returning Target % Returning
318 194 2471 61.0% 86.6% 88.1%

Every year Texas seems to add another incredible, freakishly talented receiver or two. First came Armanti Foreman out of Texas City, who makes circus catches seem routine. Then came world class burner John Burt. Last season 6-6, rangy, Collin Johnson showed up from California. In the midst of all that Jerrod Heard, the most explosive player on Texas' roster, transitioned from quarterback to receiver and looked good doing it. Southlake Carroll phenom Lil'Jordan Humphrey, the 6-5 sophomore who should play an even bigger role in Texas' offense.

Those are the headliners and there's more where they come from.

Johnson is one of the most exciting prospects in some time. He's dominate on jump balls and should be even better with a year in Texas' strength program. Last season he caugh 28 passes and 57% of his targets.

If he expands beyond just being a vertical threat, Burt should give opposing coaches more frequent nightmares. He's a home run hitter who caught just 50% of his targets so he'll need to work on his hands. His production slipped from 2015, but his world class speed requires attention. Dorian Leonard brings the same ability to take the top off a defense. Meanwhile Heard continues grow into the receiver position. He's as elusive a player as there is in the country.

Devin Duvernay comes out of spring looking like the starter at the H receiver position. He led Texas in yards per catch last seasons at 20.6. Reggie Hemphill-Mapps was the biggest mover in the spring, going from a fringe player to challenging for playing time and even bumping Foreman out for reps.

3. Texas Tech

Returning Targets Returning Catches Returning Receiving Yards Returning Catch Rate Percentage of Catches Returning Target % Returning
283 191 2497 67.5% 55.7% 55.4%

The Red Raiders never seem to be lacking for receiver talent or depth. Even with offseason defections by Jonathan Giles and Tony Brown, Tech has a lot of options on the edge. 

Keke Coutee was a revelation last season as a sophomore. With Giles gone, he moves up the food chain. Coutee is a game breaker who plays much bigger than his 5-11 frame. He caught 55 passes last year and seven touchdowns. Cameron Batson leads the returning Red Raider receivers with 61 catches. The senior from Oklahoma City caught 76% of his targets last year. He plays primarily on the inside and is also a dangerous return man. 

Dylan Cantrell is another 50+ reception man. He's a classic Red Raider possession receiver, but with a lankier frame. Tech fans are waiting for the arrival of Derrick Willies. At least the Derrick Willies they were promised last season. The number one JUCO receiver in the country never got off the ground due to injuries and inconsistent play. He's the most physically imposing of the Tech receivers, now he has to produce. Willies came out of the spring as the listed starter at "X" receiver.

Redshirt Sophomore Quan Shorts caught five passes last season in limited duty. Another JUCO mystery man, De’Quan Bowman, should get into the rotation as well. He was recruited by Arizona, Georgia, Arkansas, West Virginia, California and Wisconsin out of Hutchison Community College, however his first season at Tech he was a scout team performer. 

6-6 T.J. Vasher looked to be a contributor last season but was lost for eleven games due to injury. He was redshirted and, given his size, should be a matchup problem. Senior Zach Austin from Lake Travis should get some playing time as well, who knows, he may be another 50 catch player. Tech seems to grow them on trees. 

4. SMU

Returning Targets Returning Catches Returning Receiving Yards Returning Catch Rate Percentage of Catches Returning Target % Returning
262 152 2171 58.0% 79.2% 79.2%

Courtland Sutton might be the best player at SMU since, we don't know when. If he stays healthy and continues to be productive he'll be drafted in the first two nights of the NFL draft. Assuming the NFL doesn't stretch the draft into a month long extravaganza. 

Sutton caught 76 passes for a whopping 16.2 yards a catch. He added ten touchdowns as well. He also grew up. Sutton started using his 6-4 frame to impose his will on defensive backs. He exercises great body control and catches the ball away from his frame. With the ball in hands he's very good after the catch. 

SMU's receiving group is deep and talented. James Proche erupted onto the scene last season. Proche's an explosive playmaker as well who can make the amazing catch look routine. He's joined by Kevin Thomas, another bigger target who should be a bigger part of the offense, provided he catches the ball at a  higher rate. SMU fans have been predicting greatness for RS sophomore Alex Honey since last spring. He answered those predictions with two catches last season. Honey is 6-4, another big target who should play a bigger role in the offense. 

LSU transfer Trey Quinn will also factor in. He should make a lot of plays from the slot. SMU signed one receiver this spring, a three star recruit from T.K. Gorman in Tyler, Judah Bell. He's another tall rangy athlete to add to the fold. For the first time in a long time SMU has those guys in numbers.  

5. Houston

Returning Targets Returning Catches Returning Receiving Yards Returning Catch Rate Percentage of Catches Returning Target % Returning
234 158 1852 67.5% 61.2% 60.2%

Houston's receiving group has the most productive receiver from 2016 returning in Linell Bonner. Bonner caught 98 passes last season at an overly efficient 73% catch rate. He's dependable, strong, you can't knock him off his route, and when gets the ball he goes north and south. Bonner does a lot of damage from the slot position. He benefitted from Chance Allen last season and he needs a deep threat to create space, but Houston has one or two of those as well. 


Film Study: Linell Bonner

Great hands. Excellent body control and field awareness. Willing runner after the catch. Punishing style. Uses/extends hands to create space. Difficult to account for in the slot. 


Steven Dunbar's season would have been the lead story for most teams, but his 54 catches finished 3rd on the team in 2016. He might get top billing when Bonner gets the kind of defensive attention that his 98 catches merit. Dunbar is long, lanky, and good downfield. He's not great after the catch but he pressure the defense upfield. 

After Bonner and Dunbar, the Houston receivers get pretty green. Talented on paper, but not much in terms of production. 

Sophomore Keith Corbin was a highly recruited high school player who spent last year adjusting to the college game. From a tools standpoint there isn't much he lacks, but he needs to take advantage of opportunities at a higher rate than last year's 50%. Courtney Lark was a four-star recruit out of Bellaire who didn't see the field much as a true freshman. 

Marquez Stevens a sophomore from Shreveport battled injuries last season and appeared in two games. He was recruited by Mississippi State, Baylor, TCU, and several other Power 5s. 

Lastly Arizona State transfer Ellis Jefferson comes over for his senior season. Jefferson played high school football at Denton Guyer and should be part of the rotation, in particular from the slot. 

6. Baylor

Returning Targets Returning Catches Returning Receiving Yards Returning Catch Rate Percentage of Catches Returning Target % Returning
148 82 1197 55.4% 35.3% 37.5%

The Bear's receiving corps was decimated by graduation and early exits. K.D. Cannon is gone as is Ishmael Zamora. Between them they caught 150 passes in 2016.

Versatile athlete Blake Lynch returns after 34 catches and a productive freshman season. Lynch has a lot of untapped potential. He's athletically as good as you'll find and his size at 6-3 makes him a one on one nightmare.

Chris Platt out of Willis is a legitimate deep threat. He's not a nuanced route runner but he can absolutely run by anyone. He was the perfect fit for the Bear Raid, how he fits into Matt Rhule's offense is anyone's guess.

Sophomore Pooh Stricklin caught thirteen passes as a freshman last season. Denzel Mims out of Dangerfield will also push for playing time. The numbers will dictate that a lot of young players wll get a shot to contribute. R.J. Sneed a freshman out of Cy Ranch committed to Baylor over Ole Miss and TCU. He enrolled in the spring to get familiar with Baylor's new playbook.

7. Texas A&M

Returning Targets Returning Catches Returning Receiving Yards Returning Catch Rate Percentage of Catches Returning Target % Returning
131 83 928 63.4% 38.6% 34.5%

Enjoy this season with Christian Kirk because it will be his last at A&M. Kirk is destined for the NFL as a receiver and a return man. He's already one of the top three receivers in A&M history. (Give us Mike Evans, Kirk and we're not even sure who else. Robert Ferguson?) 

Kirk caught 83 passes in 2016 including a 63% catch rate. In two years Kirk has returned five punts for touchdowns and averaged 21 yards a return. Kirk is a physical receiver and a game breaker with the ball in his hands. 

The question is who's left after the departures of Ricky Seals-Jones, Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil, Edward Pope and well, just about everyone else. Even Frank Iheanacho transferred to SFA. We could buy into the company line coming out of College Station that the newcomers will step right in and pick up where literally everyone else left off. 

All that means Kirk will get a lot of attention from defenders this season. 

Jhamon Ausbon and Hezekiah Jones are both very talented true freshman with all bell and whistle measurables. Ausbon in particular impressed in the spring. He played for those mercenaries at IMG. 

8. UTSA

Returning Targets Returning Catches Returning Receiving Yards Returning Catch Rate Percentage of Catches Returning Target % Returning
227 121 1830 53.3% 85.2% 87.3%

All Dalton Sturm's receiving targets are coming back, well at least the big hitters. The best all around is Kerry Thomas Jr. Thomas saw his production go down from his 2015 levels. He caught 52 passes compared to 36 in 2016. He brought in 57% of his targets in 2016.

The Roadrunners deep threat is Josh Stewart. He led the Runners in both catches with 36 and yards per catch with a gaudy 18.4. We talked a bit about Stewart here.  If Stewart could become more well rounded, his overall game would improve immensely. His 46% catch rate needs to go up as well.  

Marquez McNair and Brady Jones are decent slot players. Marquez is better after the catch and Jones' downfield threat is limited.

Tariq Woolen is one of the best, big receivers from the 2016 class. He'll need to refine his game a bit and not rely solely on his size, but he could be special.

UTSA's offense is different than most in the Roundup, relying on a fullback, multiple tightends and moving receivers around to create matchup problems. Rather than just splitting out four receivers, the Roadrunners require their receivers to run an actual route tree and execute from different areas on the line of scrimmage.

With so many receivers returning with experience in the system, bodes well for UTSA.

9. Texas State

Returning Targets Returning Catches Returning Receiving Yards Returning Catch Rate Percentage of Catches Returning Target % Returning
218 149 1598 68.3% 93.7% 92.8%

The Bobcats have their shortcomings but receiver isn't one of them. If you just take catch rate, they're the best in Texas at 68% of targets. Are they undersized? Sure, but these guys can catch and they've got a fair number of playmakers.

Thurman Morbley is undersized but as a true freshman he caught seven of every ten passes thrown his way. When he catches the ball Morbley can make things happen. He averaged 11.4 yards a catch and this season he moves outside where he'll have more green grass to work with.

His partner is Tyler Watts who led the Bobcats in catches and was among the nations leaders in catch rate at 76%. He's a classic slot player who made 43 catches all in his first year of real playing time. Want a bigger target? Senior Eric Luna is your guy at 6-1 205 pounds.

Fellow senior Elijah King also caught above the national average of targets at 65%. Texas State's top four receivers all caught north of 60% of balls thrown their ways. Mason Hays added seventeen catches in 2016.

This summer Texas State brings in T.J. Bedford a freshman from Covington, Louisiana who gives the Bobcats a much needed, 2nd big target at 6-4. Caleb Twyford from Lewisville is a Swiss Army knife who played receiver, running back, and returned kicks for the Farmers.

10. North Texas

Returning Targets Returning Catches Returning Receiving Yards Returning Catch Rate Percentage of Catches Returning Target % Returning
151 79 925 52.3% 41.6% 44.9%

The Mean Green lost a lot catches from 2016. A lot. Four of their top five pass catchers are gone. Either graduated or transferred. That doesn't necessarily mean North Texas is going to struggle, the Graham Harrell offense can make do with all types receivers, big ones small ones, fast ones, slow ones. Harrell can make it work. 

This season he'll make it work with Turner Smiley, the senior caught 33 balls last year. His catch rate was just below the national average at 52%. The Mean Green did a good job getting Smiley the ball in a number of way, via returns, fly sweeps, and through the air. 


Film Study: Turner Smiley

Not a burner, smart route runner. Comes back for the ball well. Catches the ball close to his frame at times. Ok with the ball in his hands, not a deep threat. 


The guy we're excited to see is Jalen Guyton, the JC transfer and former Notre Dame signee. Guyton was a highly recruited high school receiver out of state power Allen. He was suspended from Notre Dame during his freshman season and left the Irish, landing at Trinity Valley. There's no denying his physical tools, he has ideal size and good speed. Kansas and West Virginia offered Guyton, but he stayed close to home with the Mean Green. He can flat out go get it. He's as physical a receiver as there is on the roster and should be in line for a huge 2017. 

If Tyler Wilson can catch the ball to any significant degree, it'll be a huge improvement. Last season Wilson caught 40% of his targets. He was Honorable Mention All-CUSA as a returner, if that translates to his offensive game he could be a dangerous option. 

Rico Busey came on for the Mean Green this spring.  He took significant steps in the offseason learning the offense and nailing down a starting position. O'Keeron Rutherford has ideal size to cause a ton of matchup problems at 6-5, but he's yet to have that translate into production.

Another player who stepped up during this offseason was Michael Lawrence the sophomore from Sweetwater who'll look to make a bigger contribution next season. Coaches loved his performance during spring ball.

11. UTEP

Returning Targets Returning Catches Returning Receiving Yards Returning Catch Rate Percentage of Catches Returning Target % Returning
118 66 714 55.9% 61.7% 65.2%

Oh UTEP, we want to rank you higher but we have questions. Serious questions. The biggest of which is who replaces Cole Freytag. Freytag was undeniably Ryan Metz' favorite receiver and led Miner receivers with 36 catches and a 72% catch rate. After Freytag, there's Eddie Sinegal a game breaker local product who sat out the spring with some academic issues. If he's back that answers some questions. 

Terry Juniel is a very good return man, and was Honorable Mention All-CUSA as a punt returner. He caught nine passes last year but also suffered a 47% catch rate. Warren Redix was the second leading returning receiver from 2016. He caught just twelve passes last season, and caught 57% of his targets last season. 

The two most interesting options are converted quarterback Kavika Johnson and former running back Walter Dawn. Johnson is considered one of the better athletes on the roster, who will be a receiver full time for the first time in his career. Dawn played running back last season as well as slot receiver. He's dangerous with the ball, though his size could be an issue outside of the slot. 

Tyler Batson a senior caught five passes last year but with a below 50% catch rate.  

12. Rice

Returning Targets Returning Catches Returning Receiving Yards Returning Catch Rate Percentage of Catches Returning Target % Returning
90 52 661 57.8% 33.8% 32.0%

The Owls lost their best receiver (Zach Wright), their most dangerous receiver (Temi Alaka), and their most versatile player (Nate German) this offseason. Wright graduated, Alaka and German transferred. The cupboard was robbed. 

How does Rice rebuild? Through a couple of young players and cautious optimism. Sophomore Kylen Granson played in just seven of Rice's 12 games in 2016, but he arrived in time to finish second on the team in receptions and lead the Owls in catch rate with 64%. 


Film Study: KyleN Granson

Bigger athlete, uses his body to create separation. Decent athlete, long strider, doesn't have great speed, but willing runner. Good in the air. 


Behind Granson, the rest of the Owl returning receivers failed to catch more than ten passes and none caught more better than the national average of targeted throws. There was a lack of production only exceeded by a lack of execution. 

Lance Wright is a tall, lanky target who caught ten passes but just 47% of his targeted throws. The Owls went to Alaska to find Wright who adds to a tall roster of receivers. Parker Smith, a year removed from CUSA All-Freshman Honors hauled in nine passes last seasons and 50% of his targeted throws. Another tall receiver, Smith comes in at 6-2 and is more of a possession threat. Granson, Wright, and Smith give Rice a trio of tall targets.  

Redshirt freshman Aaron Cephus out of Spring Dekaney is an interesting prospect at 6-4 and 205 pounds. He showed promise in the Owls spring game after missing 2016 with an injury. 

Aston Walter, twin brother of running back Austin, continues to transition to receiver after playing quarterback at Crosby and then moving to corner in 2015. If he can get comfortable, his athleticism should show out. 

The Roundup