It is no secret that the Big 12 is replete with offenses that put on some of the best shows in College Football. From Austin to Ames, you can catch an offensive explosion from almost any team on any given Saturday. In this conference, you can see Baylor and West Virginia combine for 133 points, or you can watch Texas Tech and Oklahoma match each other step for step to the tune of 864 yards of total offense. Some say it’s a lack of defense. I say it’s a surplus of fun.
So how do the receiver corps, an integral part of the fireworks, rank in the Big 12 heading into 2017-2018? We have looked up the numbers and found the top four returning receivers in terms of production for each team in order to project where these units might fall in the next season. Remember, these rankings are based mostly on production, so new guys or guys that have been waiting in the wings that have a lot of hype around them won’t rank too well, if they don’t have much proven production.
Without further ado…
Top 4 Returning: Steve Sims Jr., LaQuivionte Gonzales, Bobby Hartzog, Tyler Patrick
I don’t think anyone will argue with you if you said that Kansas is treading in the right direction. However, they just aren’t there yet, and while their 2016 production from their top 4 returning receivers wasn’t the worst in the Big 12, they did have the most inefficient touchdown production of the group. The top four had just 11 touchdowns on 165 catches.
The Jayhawks will enjoy having Steven Sims Jr. and LaQuvionte Gonzales at their disposal, and they will likely be option 1A and 1B for the KU trigger man. Last season Steven Sims Jr. caught 72 balls for 859 yards and 7 touchdowns. Gonzales similarly caught 62 balls for 729 yards and three touchdowns. After these two, the returning production plummets for the Jayhawks .
9. West Virginia
Top 4 Returning: Ka’Raun White, Jovon Durante, Gary Jennings, Marcus Simms
West Virginia has some work to do. They lose their top two producers in Shelton Gibson and Daikiel Shorts. They combined for 106 catches for 1,894 yards and 13 touchdowns. That is a ton of production lost to graduation/draft.
Who is coming back? Ka’Raun White, Jovon Durante, Gary Jennings and Marcus Simms are your next four receivers in terms of returning production. The four of them combined for 110 catches, 1,048 yards and 8 touchdowns. To put that in perspective, there are a few returning players in the Big 12 that achieved these stats on their own last season. There is a lot of production to make up here, but the bright spot will be quarterback Will Grier. The Florida transfer is now eligible after sitting out 2016, and if those that are close to the program are right, he has the ability to make any receiver look good.
Top 4 Returning: Chris Platt, Blake Lynch, and Pooh Stricklin, Quan Jones
Baylor has a similar situation to West Virginia and barely avoids spot number 9, but truthfully, spots eight and 9 are somewhat interchangeable. KD Cannon and Ish Zamora combined for over 2000 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. However, that production is gone as Cannon and Zamora will not be returning to Waco next season, and that leaves the receiver corp pretty…..bear.
Chris Platt, along with a pair of young receivers in Blake Lynch and Pooh Stricklin are your next three wide receivers in terms of returning production. Together, these three totaled 82 catches for just under 1200 yards and 9 touchdowns. Taking spot number four is Quan Jones, who only played in six games last year and ended with a thin stat line of five catches for 56 yards total. Coach Matt Rhule is counting on these guys to make up for the lost production.
7. Kansas State
Top 4 Returning: Byron Pringle, Isaiah Harris, Isaiah Zuber, Dominique Heath
K-State will thoroughly enjoy playmaker Byron Pringle coming back. He showed flashes of brilliance last season in route to accumulating 39 receptions for 631 yards, which averages out to 16.18 yards a catch! However, The two Isaiahs in this receiver corp will have to pick up the slack with the departure of senior Deante Burton. Burton accounted for a serviceable 404 yards on 29 catches, which actually provided for a nice 13.93 yards per catch. Harris and Zuber combined last year for 34 catches and 207 yards. Expect that production to increase.
The Wildcats will also get some immediate help from California transfer Carlos Strickland. Strickland transferred after his redshirt freshman year, and sat out last season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. He should be able to give the Wildcats an added playmaker opposite Pringle as he was a highly touted recruit out of Dallas, TX, and was ranked the 132nd recruit in the nation in the 2015 class by Rivals.
Top 4 Returning: Mark Andrews, Nick Basquine, AD Miller, Jeffery Mead
Replacing Biletnikoff Award winner DeDe Westbrook is a tall order to begin with, but Oklahoma doesn’t return much in the way of receiver talent. The Sooners cupboard is a little more bare than we are used to seeing. Baker Mayfield is returning for his final year of eligibility, but who is he going to throw to?
The good news? OU was the most efficient with the passing game in relation to touchdowns in the Big 12 last season with nearly 20 percent of their catches resulting in six. We know Mayfield is going to put the ball into their hands, so while there is not a lot of proven talent on the field, it is just matter of who will be the next man up? Mark Andrews and Jeffery Mead have shown the ability to make big plays when the Sooners need them, and graduate transfer Jeff Badet will provide some instant help.
5. Iowa State
Top 4 Returning: Allen Lazard, Deshaunte Jones, Trever Ryen, Carson Epps
Yup, Iowa State is number five. Make no mistake though, this is far and away the Allen Lazard show. Nearly half of the returning production is credited to Lazard. Of the top four returning receivers, he accounted for 47.2 percent (1018) of total receiving yards and 43.75 percent of their touchdowns (7). He IS the receiving corp.
After Lazard there is a significant drop in production. Deshaunte Jones had 37 receptions for 536 yards, though Jones seems to be a solid end zone target with six touchdown receptions. Overall, the Cyclone receiving corp combines for 160 catches for 2,155 yards and 16 touchdowns in returning production. Numbers that could improve as QB Jacob Park gets more comfortable with coach Matt Campbell’s offense.
Top 4 Returning: Armanti Foreman, Devin Duvernay, Dorian Leonard, Colin Johnson
UPDATE: Originally Jake Oliver was listed as the Longhorn’s fourth returning receiver, but he has retired from football.
Texas has a similar situation to Texas Tech (which we will get to later). Their top returning receivers all shared an even share of the receiving numbers in 2016. Each returning receivers had between 315 and 420 yards on 28-34 receptions. And, each receiver had three touchdowns as well. One thing to especially note, Devin Duvernay averaged over 20 yards a catch(!!!)
The biggest question for the Longhorns is what will their offense look like under new head coach Tom Herman? Well, it won’t be slow. Herman likes an up-tempo spread attack, and he has the receiving corp to run it. Look for everyone’s production to improve in 2017 as the Longhorns spread it out.
Top 4 Returning: Taj Williams, Jon Diarse, Jaelan Austin, KaVontae Turpin
Edging out Texas for spot number three is TCU. The Frogs return a solid receiver corp. Taj Williams, who will probably be the go to target, caught 39 receptions for 702 yards last season, which was good enough for an average of 18 yards per catch. Jon Diarse also returns coming off of 442 yards on 33 catches, good for 13.39 yards per catch. Jaelan Austin, another solid threat, comes in with 332 yards on only 23 receptions and averages 14.43 yards per catch. And finally there is KaVontae Turpin who only played in eight games, but earning 295 yards on 30 catches, which comes out to almost 10 yards a catch.
That is nice distribution, and I’m especially looking forward to seeing what a healthy KaVontae Turpin can do with a full season. For TCU though, the question isn’t who will be catching the ball, it will be who is throwing it. The receiving corp can only be as good as the quarterback, and the Horned Frogs need a lot more consistency under center if they want to be a Big 12 dark horse in 2017.
2. Texas Tech
Top 4 Returning: Jonathan Giles, KeKe Coutee, Dylan Cantrell, Cameron Batson
Texas Tech had the most returning passing production, and it wasn’t even close. The Red Raiders top four returning receivers combined for an astonishing 3,367 yards. To put that into perspective, the next closest was Oklahoma State with their 2,708 yards in returning production. That’s a 659-yard difference.
The distribution among the top four returning receivers was impressive. Jonathan Giles lead the pack with 1,158 yards and 13 touchdowns on 69 catches. That is good enough to average over 16 yards a catch. KeKe Coutee behind him checks in with 890 yards and seven touchdowns on 55 catches, which also averages over 16 yards a catch. Right there with him is Dylan Cantrell. He finished last season with 650 yards and eight touchdowns on 57 catches. And then rounding out the four is Cameron Batson, who also had eight touchdowns with 650 yards on 61 receptions.
Even though this production may have come on the back of NFL-caliber quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Tech will once again be difficult to defend with so many proven receivers.
1. Oklahoma State
Top 4 Returning: James Washington, Jalen Mcleskey, Chris Lacey, Marcell Ateman
I do not envy the defense coordinators who will have to game plan around Oklahoma State’s talented receiving corp. The Cowboys are going to be the stuff of nightmares for secondaries. James Washington, who will almost assuredly be a Biletnikoff finalist, comes in on 71 Receptions for 1,380 yards! To put that in perspective, he alone had more receiving yards than the top four returners for Oklahoma or Kansas State.
Additionally, Washington averaged nearly 20 yards a catch and hauled in 10 touchdowns. Jalen Mcleskey is right behind him at 73 catches for 812 yards, average of 11.12 yards a catch and seven touchdowns. These two players are going to be handful for defensive coordinators. These two dudes alone are enough to get OK State to the number 1 spot but toss in Chris Lacy, who averages over 15 yards a catch, and Marcell Ateman, who is returning from injury, and this passing attack is deadly.
Just in case that wasn’t enough though, the Cowboys have even more talent in the wings with LSU transfer Tyron Johnson, who was a 5-star recruit for the Tigers, and Dillon Stoner and Tyrell Alexander. Good night.