With less than a month to go before Big 12 teams start fall practices, the 2019 offseason is beginning to draw to a close. To get a better understanding of what those ten squads will look like in the coming months, we’ve been looking at position groups across the conference and ranking them from best to worst.
These rankings take into account as yet unseen potential, but tend to rely heavily on the proven production of seasons past. As we continue going through the offensive side of the ball, we turn to a group that traditionally gets a lot of attention in the Big 12, the wide receivers and tight ends.
Once again, this conference is stocked full of pass catchers. There are multiple players on this list who will likely be playing in the NFL one day, and the talent really is dispersed evenly throughout the conference. Any one of these teams could have an as yet unknown talent step in and shake things up.
Putting the football in the hands of a lot of these wide receivers and tight ends will certainly be top of mind for the coaches in this league, no matter the offensive scheme and surrounding personnel they’re working with.
Normally some drop off would be expected whenever a team’s wide receiver corps loses a first round pick from the previous year. Yet, the Sooners sit in good position headed into next season, seeing as they return three of their four top pass catchers from a year ago.
CeeDee Lamb is likely another first or second round draft pick who put up 1,158 yards passing last year, all the while showcasing an out-of-this-world ability to go up and snag the ball out of the air. Former walk-on Lee Morris and tight end/slot receiver Grant Calcaterra, a pair who had over 950 yards receiving combined in 2018, will be back as well.
Also, after signing two of the top three wide receiving recruits in the country, the Sooners are loaded at wideout and have more upside than any team in the league right now. Until Oklahoma is dethroned as the top pass-catching team in the conference, it’s entirely justified to keep them there.
2. Oklahoma State
It’s not often that they have a shortage of receivers in Stillwater, and the 2019 season should be no different. All-American Tylan Wallace is the headliner in this group. A veritable star who amassed 1,491 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman last season, Wallace will be one of the very best wide receivers in the Big 12 this year.
The players surrounding him are talented as well. Junior Dillon Stoner is a sure-handed, athletic wideout, and sophomore “cowboy back” Jelani Woods has the potential to develop at the hybrid position. Both are returning starters for the Pokes, who will have one of the more seasoned groups of pass catchers in the Big 12.
The passing game for the Longhorns jumped close to the top of the conference after a bit of a breakout season for the Texas offense in 2018, one where they put up over 3,600 yards through the air. Despite suffering a couple of key losses, most of the depth chart returns.
Texas’ headliner going into 2019 is senior Collin Johnson, a player who could be a first round pick in next year’s NFL Draft. Senior Devin Duvernay will likely improve on his 546 yards in his second full season with quarterback Sam Ehlinger. Other highly touted players, like sophomores Brennan Eagles and Joshua Moore, are also expected to step up in the fall.
Sixth year senior John Burt, who was granted a medical redshirt, will add experience to the roster for the Longhorns.
By all appearances, the moniker “Wide Receiver U” still has some resonance in Waco in 2019. The Bears will field some of the best depth in the conference in this season, with five players from last year’s two deep back. Those players, two of whom are extremely seasoned seniors, racked up over 1,700 yards receiving as a key part of the Baylor passing attack.
Among them, Denzel Mims is the name to know. Mims could very well be in for a 1,000 yard season this fall, and it would be his second in three years. Beside him, expect the speedy senior Chris Platt to provide a legitimate threat to opposing defenses, something he’s got experience doing.
Sophomores Josh Fleeks and Tyquan Thorton have, in addition, established themselves as talented, athletic receivers as rookies, and each will no doubt only continue to improve.
5. Texas Tech
Offensive coordinator David Yost should have been quite happy to see the potential amongs all the wide receivers on hand when he arrived at Texas Tech. The Red Raiders had some significant attrition from a receiving corps that put up over 4,000 yards last season, but some quality players are still on campus.
Last year, 6’6” T.J. Vasher continued to show why he’ll likely hear his name called in the NFL Draft at some point. Despite battling injuries, Vasher managed to amass almost 700 yards receiving. KeSean Carter showed talent as a freshman in 2018, and he projects as a starter this year. Senior Seth Collins, who caught two touchdowns last season, is also expected to start.
One name stands out as probably the best all-around athlete in the Big 12, and that’s TCU’s Jalen Reagor, who was the go-to skill player on offense in 2018. Unfortunately, the Horned Frogs don’t have a lot of returning production outside of the third year speedster – Reagor’s 1,061 yards gained last year is three times more than any other returning receiver.
Of course, the shifty sophomore Taye Barber, clearly the number two wideout for TCU, can only build on his 303 yards from his initial campaign in 2018. Developing the yet-unproven talent that Gary Patterson brought to Fort Worth will be a high priority for the Horned Frogs headed into August, though.
7. Iowa State
Another year, another marquee wide receiver is gone for the Cyclones. That might not bother head coach Matt Campbell too much, however, as his offenses continue to be productive despite such losses.
Deshaunte Jones is the only returning starter among the wideouts, but expect him to improve on his 417 yards from 2018 as he likely becomes more of a focal point for the offense.
With Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen, the Cyclones are in a better situation at tight end than any team in the Big 12 right now.
8. West Virginia
After transfers, the NFL Draft, and graduation, new West Virginia head coach Neal Brown finds his wide receiver room fairly depleted. Only two pass catchers come back from last year’s two deep.
Nonetheless, they are two pretty solid junior players. Miami transfer Jovani Haskins put up 148 yards receiving in his first season as an NCAA-eligible tight end in Morgantown, and there’s no reason why he can’t excel as a junior. Fellow transfer T.J. Simmons, who came to the Mountaineers after a year at Alabama, should be a name to watch with a new coaching staff.
9. Kansas State
The Wildcats have somewhat of a tradition of developing relatively unknown wide receivers to become future in NFL standouts, but there’s no denying that level of play hasn’t been a staple of the Kansas State offense of late.
Of all the returning receivers for the Wildcats this year, only two had 100 yards receiving or more in 2018 – senior Dalton Schoen (520) and sophomore Malik Knowles (100).
Schoen will be a familiar target for projected starter Skylar Thompson this year, and he should continue to find ways to slice through opposing secondaries. Still, the wide receiver position may be a longer term project for the newly hired Chris Klieman.
At LSU, Les Miles struggled to field highly productive college wideouts, something that doesn’t bode well for a Kansas offense losing multiple pass catchers from 2018.
Junior Stephan Robinson can boast 330 yards receiving from last year, and there was some offseason buzz around Daylon Charlot and Kwamie Lassiter, both upperclassmen. Still, this position group is no doubt a question mark for the Jayhawks in 2019, and we’ll have to see what kind magic Miles and his staff might be able to work here.