Dallas Colleges: James Kirkendoll

The Big 12 might be weak at the top of the running back heap, but it's definitely not at receiver. The conference has at least three of the top five receivers in the country, and the top two. They highlight a very strong group of receivers across the league, and I continue our position rankings with receivers today.

Remember that depth plays a big part of these rankings. We'll be ranking the top 10 individuals at each position later on before the season begins.

Other position rankings: 1. Oklahoma

[+] EnlargeRyan Broyles
J.P. Wilson/Icon SMIRyan Broyles finished the 2010 season with 131 catches for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Sooners have the nation's No. 2 receiver, Ryan Broyles, but found a handful of others to surround him in 2010 and should have a couple more in 2011. Sophomore Kenny Stills broke Broyles' freshman receiving record and looks like a budding star. Dejuan Miller came on strong before a season-ending knee injury, but he's back. The Sooners lose Cameron Kenney, but Trey Franks had a strong freshman campaign, and freshmen Justin McCay (redshirt) and Trey Metoyer could provide even more playmakers.

2. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys boast the returning Biletnikoff Award winner and 2011 favorite, Justin Blackmon, with a great group around him, too. Slot machine Josh Cooper returns for his senior year, and fellow senior Hubert Anyiam (the team's leading receiver in 2009) is hoping to return to form after being slowed by an ankle injury in 2010. Isaiah Anderson is a shifty speedster, while Michael Harrison and Tracy Moore offer a more aerial approach to receiving.

3. Texas A&M

The Aggies have the Big 12's No. 3 receiver, Jeff Fuller, who is arguably one of the top-five in the college game. But they also have the Big 12's most experienced receiving unit, with guys who won't be surprised by anything they see in Big 12 play. Juniors Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu are the team's second and third options, but fellow juniors Kenric McNeal and Brandal Jackson could be bigger pieces of the offense in 2011. Tight end Nehemiah Hicks should see his profile rise in his coming sophomore year.

4. Baylor

Top target Kendall Wright will likely end his career as the Bears' leading receiver for all four of his seasons on the field, and 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior Josh Gordon looks like the new Jeff Fuller. Terrance Williams, Lanear Sampson and Tevin Reese round out the Bears' top five, who all had at least 40 catches last season, and all return.

5. Missouri

Missouri still lacks a proven big-play threat, but has two pass-catchers who have some of the best hands in the game. Receiver T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew won't drop many passes, and combined to catch 182 for 1,807 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson bring a lot of experience and both had at least 39 catches last season. If Marcus Lucas or Rolandis Woodland can become a consistent downfield threat, Missouri will rise up these rankings by season's end.

6. Texas Tech

Tech's top two receivers, Lyle Leong and Detron Lewis, must be replaced, but the Red Raiders have a few solid candidates to do it. Junior Alex Torres will likely lead the group, but fellow junior Austin Zouzalik and seniors Jacoby Franks and Tramain Swindall will be counted on for more production. Dark horse/juco newcomer Marcus Kennard could blossom into a household name across the Big 12 by season's end.

7. Texas

Sophomore Mike Davis and redshirt freshman Darius White are loaded with potential, but two of the team's top three receivers (James Kirkendoll, John Chiles) are gone, and no Texas receiver caught more than two touchdowns last season. Malcolm Williams and Marquise Goodwin are as different as two receivers could be, but both need to break out to help whoever becomes the Longhorns quarterback next fall.

8. Kansas State

Brodrick Smith will be back this season after breaking his leg in a loss to Nebraska. But two of the team's top three receivers are gone, leaving converted quarterback Chris Harper as the leading returner, though Smith might have held that title if he'd stayed healthy. Sophomore speedster Tramaine Thompson can make plays if he gets the ball with some space.

9. Iowa State

The Cyclones will be breaking in a new quarterback this season and they will need a playmaker to step up. Tight end Collin Franklin led team in receiving last season but he is now gone. Darius Reynolds looks like a possible candidate to fill the role, although incoming slot receiver Aaron Horne might rack up a few catches in space. Darius Darks and Josh Lenz should earn some more targets too.

10. Kansas

Converted defensive back Daymond Patterson is the team's top receiver, but the team's No. 3 receiver junior Bradley McDougald, moved to safety in the middle of the season. Tight end Tim Biere is one of the Big 12's best and led the team with four touchdowns last season. Chris Omigie and D.J. Beshears have some potential, and converted quarterback Christian Matthews keeps showing up in spring games. But all three, along with the rest of the group, would benefit from some consistency at the quarterback spot.

Spring superlatives: Texas

April, 22, 2011
4/22/11
9:44
AM CT
The eighth in our series looking at the strongest and weakest position for each team in the Big 12: The Texas Longhorns.

Strongest position: Pass-rushers

Key returnees: Keenan Robinson, Jackson Jeffcoat, Alex Okafor, Emmanuel Acho

Key losses: Sam Acho, Eddie Jones

Analysis: Sam Acho was the best of the bunch last year, but Texas is loaded with young talent up front that can put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Robinson and Emmanuel Acho are budding stars who both were in the backfield plenty last year, and Jeffcoat showed potential to be the best defensive end in the league last year before being slowed by an ankle injury.

He should be much better this year and likely the most disruptive pass-rusher on the team.

Okafor, though, switched to defensive end from defensive tackle and drew rave reviews all spring, capping it with a five-sack performance in a spring game. Yes, it's a spring game, but still. He was impressive and constantly disruptive. Texas has a young secondary and a developing offense, but if the Longhorns bounce back in 2011, the front seven will be a big reason why.

Weakest position: Skill positions

Key returnees: WR Mike Davis, QB Garrett Gilbert, RB Fozzy Whittaker, RB Cody Johnson

Key losses: WR James Kirkendoll, WR John Chiles, RB Tre' Newton

Analysis: Texas has a lot of work to do here, but may rely on new faces heavily next year. Gilbert didn't show much last year, but he didn't have much help, either. He now has to win his job back, and there's no guarantee that will happen.

At running back, Whittaker and Johnson haven't shown much game-breaking ability or consistency, and they'll be seniors this year. Running back D.J. Monroe is the biggest home-run threat of the group, but a lack of playbook knowledge and pass-blocking acumen kept him off the field last year. In its spring game, though, Texas showed a strong intent to get him the ball in space. When that happens, he can make plays. Freshman running back Malcolm Brown also brings loads of expectations with him to fall camp.

Davis could blossom into a star this year at receiver, but he needs help from his quarterback. Darius White looked good at the spring game, but Texas also needs receivers like DeSean Hales and Marquise Goodwin to be more consistent. Malcolm Williams didn't do it, and as a senior this year, Texas' biggest target looks like he'll spend more time at H-back than he will at receiver.

More spring superlatives:

Dallas pair look to shut down No. 5 Texas

September, 8, 2010
9/08/10
4:03
PM CT
A year ago, the Texas Longhorns waltzed into Wyoming only to learn they had a football game on their hands.

The 41-10 final doesn't do the Cowboys justice. It was 13-10 at the half. Now Wyoming comes to Austin to face No. 5 Texas Saturday night in the Longhorns' home opener.

"I think we've got something to prove to ourselves," Texas senior wide receiver James Kirkendoll said. "We've got to play to our standards if we want to get back to where we were last year [the BCS national title game]. "We're going to take Wyoming just like we would take Oklahoma. We're going to come out there and play as hard as we can play."

So, too, will the Cowboys (1-0), especially brothers Marcell and Tashaun Gipson, Wyoming's stellar starting cornerbacks and former stars at Dallas Kimball High School. Marcell is a senior; Tashaun a junior. They make up one-third of the six Texans on the Wyoming roster. Saturday will mark the 27th consecutive game in which the brothers have started at the two cornerback spots.

"Both of those guys are pro prospects," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "The corners can cover. We were really impressed with their secondary last year. We thought it was one of the real strengths of their defense."

They'll likely face a stiffer challenge from the Texas passing game with first-year starter Garrett Gilbert, who completed 14-of-23 passes for 172 yards in his first career start. Against Rice, the Horns focused on establishing a ground game, a point of emphasis this year as the team transitions away from the Colt McCoy era.

"I think that Wyoming will have a little bit better defense [than Rice]," Kirkendoll said. "When we challenged them last year, Wyoming's defense was really good. But, we will have plenty of opportunities, especially in the wideout group this week."

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