Thursday, April 14, 2011
The Big 12's 1000-yard receivers in 2011
By ESPN.com staff
We took a look at the Big 12's 1,000-yard rushers last week, but now it's time to shift our focus from the backfield.
Like running backs, 1,000 yards is the benchmark of an outstanding season, but the Big 12 brings back a lot more receiving talent than running back talent. Four Big 12 receivers reached the 1,000-yard mark last year, and all four return. Only one of the seven Big 12 backs who topped 1,000 yards rushing will return to the Big 12 next season. In 2009, the Big 12 also had four 1,000-yard receivers, but only one (Ryan Broyles) returned.
Once again, let me remind you: This list is not the list of the Big 12's best receivers, though clearly, that's a factor. Instead, it's a list of the players, in order, with the best opportunity in their exact situations to reach 1,000 yards receiving.
1. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma: Don't read much into Broyles being over Blackmon. They'll both clear the 1,000-yard mark easily, barring injury. Broyles, though, has done it twice already and has more guaranteed touches in Oklahoma's short passing game.
2. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State: Blackmon won't come from nowhere this year, but teams were well aware of him after a few games last year. Look for Blackmon and Broyles to clear the 1,500-yard mark like they did last year, when they ranked second and third nationally in receiving yards. Both were finalists for the Biletnikoff Award won by Blackmon, and both have a decent chance to be Heisman finalists next year.
3. T.J. Moe, Missouri: Missouri could help out Moe quite a bit by finding a deep threat to soften up defenses for his underneath routes, but he should be a nice safety blanket for the Tigers' new quarterback. Like we wrote earlier this week, Missouri is the only team in the Big 12 without a quarterback on the roster who has started a game.
4. Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M: Fuller became the first Texas A&M receiver to ever reach the 1,000-yard mark last season, and there's no reason to believe he won't do it again. He's experienced, a good route-runner and near impossible to cover on the fade route.
5. Kendall Wright, Baylor: Wright just missed the mark last year (952 yards), but he could get over the hump this year. Baylor's receiving corps is deep, but Wright is the best and most experienced of the bunch. He's also the biggest home-run threat.
6. Alex Torres, Texas Tech: Torres was slowed last year by a back injury, but Texas Tech loses its top two receivers from last year's team, and Torres is likely the beneficiary. Worth noting: Keep an eye out for juco transfer Marcus Kennard.
7. Kenny Stills, Oklahoma: Stills broke Broyles' freshman receiving record, but as a sophomore, Broyles became Oklahoma's top target and had his first 1,000-yard season. Unfortunately, for Stills, Broyles is still there. His time is coming, though.
8. Mike Davis, Texas: Davis should be the top target for the Longhorns, but there's no shaking Texas' apparent big questions at quarterback. More than anything, that's what could keep Davis from topping the 1,000-yard mark.
9. Ryan Swope, Texas A&M: Swope is the Aggies' resident slot machine. He should be due for a nice year, but with Fuller and two quality backs soaking up touches, the volume probably isn't there for Swope to rank among the league's elite. He's still a very, very valuable piece to the Aggies offense that made a handful of huge catches last year, especially against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.
10. Josh Gordon, Baylor: Gordon and Davis are the least accomplished receivers on this list, but Baylor's second target could be due for a big year as a junior. With a quarterback like Robert Griffin III, getting Gordon the ball won't be the problem.
My prediction: Broyles, Blackmon, Fuller, Moe, Torres