The SEC’s multiple quarterback competitions took center stage on opening weekend, but the conference also is full of teams that are sorting things out at wide receiver.
Here is how five of the SEC teams with receiving question marks fared in Game 1:
With quarterback Blake Sims and basically every receiver of note -- particularly the record-setting Amari Cooper -- gone, Alabama has a lot to prove in the passing game. The Crimson Tide got off to a good start against a rebuilding Wisconsin secondary.
Talent is not the issue, and that was evident as new quarterback Jacob Coker started fast against the Badgers. He connected with sophomore Robert Foster (the No. 2 receiver and No. 25 overall prospect on the 2013 ESPN 300) four times for 50 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown, in the first half. Alabama QBs also completed three passes for 22 yards to true freshman Calvin Ridley (the No. 1 wideout and No. 23 overall prospect in this year’s ESPN 300).
It wasn’t an especially splashy first effort (Coker and Cooper Bateman were a combined 22-for-29 for 264 yards and one TD), but Alabama didn’t need splashy. The QBs completed passes to eight receivers and the Tide controlled the game throughout.
This might have been the most unexpected result of the weekend. Razorbacks quarterback Brandon Allen was on fire in the win against Texas-El Paso, passing for a career-high 308 yards and four touchdowns.
We knew coming into the season that Arkansas had a couple of proven pass-catchers in Keon Hatcher and tight end Hunter Henry, and both players were active against UTEP. Hatcher caught six passes for 106 yards, including touchdowns of 20 and 38 yards, as the Hogs built a 28-10 halftime lead. Henry caught two balls for 42 yards.
The question for Arkansas entering the season was who would complement that duo, and a couple of candidates stepped forward. Jared Cornelius had 75 receiving yards, including a 58-yard touchdown. Drew Morgan capped Arkansas’ opening drive with a 26-yard score of his own.
Of these five teams, we learned the least about the Bulldogs’ passing options in Game 1. Georgia mostly had its way against Louisiana-Monroe, a team that ranked 14th nationally in pass defense last season, but the Bulldogs didn’t do much in the passing game.
We knew senior Malcolm Mitchell would be the top option at wide receiver and he was, finishing with three catches for 52 yards, including a leaping 28-yard touchdown. But a position group that must replace Chris Conley, Michael Bennett and possibly an injured Justin Scott-Wesley has basically no proven options behind Mitchell.
Quarterback Patrick Towles was outstanding early, passing for 219 yards and two touchdowns in the first half by completing a number of deep shots against Louisiana-Lafayette’s shaky secondary. His accuracy fell off in the second half as the Cajuns rallied, but the Wildcats still spread the ball around to their youthful group of receivers in Shannon Dawson’s Air Raid offense.
Garrett Johnson led the way with five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown and Towles also completed touchdowns to Jeff Badet and Blake Bone. Towles also completed a 12-yard pass to walk-on Charles Walker on third-and-12 to help extend Kentucky’s go-ahead touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
Ryan Timmons, the closest thing Kentucky has to a proven option among the seven players who caught a pass, had one reception for 36 yards.
The Tigers have one of the SEC’s most unproven receiving corps after losing Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Darius White, but a couple of young receivers showed out in the opening win over Southeast Missouri State.
J’Mon Moore led the team with three catches for 74 yards and a touchdown, and fellow sophomore Nate Brown added three catches for 69 yards and a beautiful 23-yard score.
The Tigers’ receivers dropped several passes, including two on third down and one by Brown that would have been a touchdown, but it was still a nice debut. Mizzou finished with 319 passing yards and had 10 players catch a pass.