The start of the college football season is a little less than two months away, making now a good time to dive more into what teams in the Big 12 will look like next season.
We’ll do that here by looking at position groups and ranking them from best to worst. Next up, we move on to looking at how wide receivers and tight ends across the Big 12 compare.
The Mountaineers get the top spot here as the only Big 12 team with two wide receivers that could hear their names called in next year’s draft. David Sills V and Gary Jennings had more than 2,000 yards receiving last season, and each will make their share of All-Big 12 teams.
The third wide receiver most likely to start this season, Marcus Simms, is also a dynamic player who averaged almost 19 yards a catch in 2017. If the Mountaineers can make a viable passing threat from players like Miami transfer tight end Jovani Haskins, they should be nearly unstoppable.
When stand out tight end Mark Andrews graduated and went on to the NFL, the Sooners lost a significant portion of their production. Returning this season, though, is speedster Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who was Oklahoma’s leading pass catcher last season and has a chance to be drafted on Day One in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Alongside him will be talented sophomore CeeDee Lamb and fellow returning starter Mykel Jones, each of whom are athletic and have good hands. If Andrews’ replacement Grant Calcalterra can produce at tight end, then this could become the best unit in the Big 12.
Mike Gundy has a reputation for develop wide receivers, one reason the Cowboys find themselves higher up on this list. Despite losing their top two wideouts last season, there are still quality wide receivers at Oklahoma State. Senior starter Jalen McCleskey, one of the best slot receivers in the country, returns.
Dillon Stoner, who is deceptively fast and has a knack for getting open, could feasibly double his receiving yardage from last season if the Pokes can find a quarterback. Tyron Johnson is a fast player on the outside who could be the next James Washington if he continues to develop.
One of the few bright spots for the Bears in last season’s 1-11 campaign was the wide receiver position. That’s good news for the Bears, who return almost all of their receiving production from last season. Their leading headliner is by far Denzel Mims, who will probably be on some preseason lists in 2018.
Mims has great concentration, which he showcased in making multiple big plays last season. Beside him are also burners like Pooh Stricklin and Chris Platt, each of whom are returning starters that could surpass 500 yards receiving this year.
The Horned Frogs find themselves in the middle of the conference because they lack a proven big time receiver in spite of having some depth at this position. Senior Kavontae Turpin is dangerous, but needs to be more consistent as a wide receiver.
Starter Jalen Reagor is a strong, reliable wideout who led the team in receiving yards last season and will definitely be a go-to guy this year. Outside of proven players like those two, TCU will be hoping younger players with plenty of potential, like redshirt freshman Omar Manning, step up in 2018.
After losing three of their top four pass catchers from last season, it’s easy to see how the Cyclones would find themselves closer to the bottom of this list.
Nonetheless, Iowa State still has players that may have a big year – Hakeem Butler has received praise for his talent from head coach Matt Campbell and Chase Allen is the best returning tight end in the Big 12. Upperclassmen Deshaunte Jones and Matt Eaton likewise have room to grow and develop as they step into starting roles.
On paper, the Longhorns certainly have the potential to produce high quality receivers, but the results have yet to materialize. At 6’6″, junior Collin Johnson has the look of a future star, but he struggled to stay on the field and make plays throughout last season. Senior John Burt had a breakout season his freshman year, but he’s struggled with drops since then.
Other players, like Devin Duvernay or Jerrod Heard, could also be in line for a good year, but neither of them stood out last season. Lil’ Jordan Humphrey might be the best wide receiver on this team in 2018, but he had less 500 yards receiving last season.
The Red Raiders are lower on this list because of their losses from last season. With the dismissal of junior Quan Shorts, six of Texas Tech’s top eight wide receivers from 2017 are now gone. TJ Vasher is the most likely headliner, having amassed over 500 yards receiving last year. Seth Collins, Jr comes in as a graduate transfer, however, and he could also prove to be a star in this unit.
It’s hard to believe that Texas Tech’s pass-heavy offense won’t put up reliable numbers next season, but without proven names it’s hard to put this group much higher.
With only one significant loss from last season, the Jayhawks return almost all of their receiving production this year. Steven Sims is the biggest name back from a group of wide receivers who didn’t have a single player amass 1,000 yards in 2017. The best player in the group might end up being Mavin Saunders, a Florida State graduate transfer with NFL potential.
10. Kansas State
The Wildcats were hit particularly hard at wideout with a couple of players who decided to leave – one via transfer, one to the NFL – earlier than expected. If Kansas State can field a good passer in the fall, either Isaiah Zuber or Dalton Schoen could have breakout seasons. The pair combined for just under 1,000 yards last year, but the Wildcats fall lower on this list because they return very little from an offense that was at the bottom of the Big 12 in passing in 2017.