- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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With spring ball a month away, we're ranking position groups in the Big 12. These evaluations are based on past performance, future potential and quality depth. Our outlooks will likely look different after the spring, but this is how we see them now. We continue this series with wide receivers (and tight ends):
1. Baylor: The Bears just keep reloading at wide receiver. All-Big 12 selection Corey Coleman and freshman All-American KD Cannon return from 1,000-yard seasons to give Baylor one of the most electrifying one-two punches in the country. Jay Lee and Davion Hall headline the rest of the group, which is loaded with up-and-coming prospects such as Ishmael Zamora, Chris Platt, Devontre Stricklin and Blake Lynch.
2. TCU: The Horned Frogs return their top three pass catchers in Josh Doctson, Kolby Listenbee and Deante' Gray, who all delivered big performances for the nation’s second-highest scoring offense in combining for 23 touchdown catches. Desmon White and Emanuel Porter also flashed potential as freshmen, and should offer even more help as sophomores.
3. Oklahoma State: Every single receiver that caught a pass for the Cowboys last season is back, including starters Brandon Sheperd, David Glidden and James Washington. Sheperd exploded once Mason Rudolph took over at quarterback; Glidden is one of the most experienced receivers in the league out of the slot; Washington was among the top true freshman receivers in the country. Jhajuan Seales, Marcell Ateman, Chris Lacy and Austin Hays, who all have starting experience, round out the deepest receiving corps in the league.
4. Oklahoma: The Sooners receiving unit fell apart last season after Sterling Shepard suffered a groin injury. The good news is that Shepard will be back -- and hopefully healthy -- for his senior year. He alone elevates this group into one of the better ones in the Big 12 when he’s on the field. Shepard should have more help next season, as Dede Westbrook was arguably the top junior-college receiver in the country and figures to be an instant starter in Norman.
5. Texas Tech: This group had a lackluster 2014 season, but the talent is still there. Jakeem Grant is an All-Big 12-caliber talent and should put up bigger numbers with more consistent quarterback play. After a slow start, Devin Lauderdale came on strong during the second half of the season on the outside. Ian Sadler, Reginald Davis and Dylan Cantrell all finished with at least 20 catches last season. The Red Raiders also signed a pair of four-star wideouts in Keke Coutee and J.F. Thomas, who was a late flip from TCU. There are concerns about Thomas qualifying, but if he makes it to campus, he could give the Red Raiders another playmaker on the perimeter.
6. Iowa State: The Cyclones have major concerns at running back and on defense, but one place they are not weak is at wide receiver. Like Cannon and Washington, Allen Lazard was terrific as a true freshman and should become an even bigger focal point of the offense next season. The Cyclones also will welcome back 2013 leading receiver Quenton Bundrage, who missed all of 2014 with a knee injury. D'Vario Montgomery gives the Cyclones a very capable trio at the position.
7. West Virginia: The Mountaineers face the unenviable task of replacing All-American receivers Kevin White and Mario Alford. Jordan Thompson and Daikiel Shorts will have to play bigger roles. They were able to capitalize off all the attention defenses devoted to stopping White. Shelton Gibson has the talent to be a difference maker, but he finished with just four catches last season. Incoming freshmen Jovon Durante, who was the top signee in West Virginia’s class, and Gary Jennings could be immediate factors in the rotation, as could junior-college transfer Ka'Raun White, Kevin White's younger brother.
8. Texas: John Harris and Jaxon Shipley were responsible for more than 50 percent of Texas' receptions last season, and both are gone. The Longhorns will have to unearth a new No. 1 target for whoever emerges out of the QB derby. Armanti Foreman has a chance to be that receiver after playing some as a true freshman. Marcus Johnson is the lone veteran of the group, but is mostly just a burner. Texas desperately needs someone such as Daje Johnson or Gilbert Johnson, or one of its highly touted signees such as Ryan Newsome, John Burt, or DeAndre McNeal -- or even tight end Devonaire Clarington -- to emerge.
9. Kansas State: The Wildcats graduated the most prolific receiver in school history in Tyler Lockett, and the best wingman in the Big 12 in Curry Sexton. Those two combined for 185 catches and 2,574 receiving yards last season. That level of production won’t easily be replaced. Deante Burton probably takes over as the leading receiver, but he had only 17 catches last year. Kody Cook, Judah Jones and Andre Davis have some experience in minor roles. This could be a transition year.
10. Kansas: After years of mediocrity, the Jayhawks were better at receiver last season. But with their top five pass-catchers gone, they could be taking a step back again. Nigel King would have been the top returning receiver, but he curiously declared for the draft. Former Florida tight end Kent Taylor, who was an ESPN 300 recruit in 2012, transferred to Kansas last year and should help. The staff has high hopes for early enrollee Chase Harrell as well, but this group overall is completely unproven.