Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Preseason position reviews: Receiver
By Ted Miller
Receiver is not as strong a position in the Pac-12 as it was last year, but it's still pretty darn good, with Belitnikof Award winner Marqise Lee back and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks being a potential All-American.
And if Arizona didn't lose Austin Hill to a knee injury this spring, three 1,000-yard receivers would be back.
So how do things stack up?
Receiver Nelson Agholor proved last season that he can be a deep threat for USC.
USC: Lee is the nation's best receiver. Sophomore Nelson Agholor averaged 17.9 yards per catch last year. Just like last year when Lee was paired with Robert Woods, this might become the best combo in the country, though, of course, Woods was far more proven than Agholor. The depth is questionable but, at least based on recruiting rankings, it is talented.
Oregon: While De'Anthony Thomas is officially a running back, you can't help but allow him to toss some fairy dust here. Further, Josh Huff seemed to take a step forward from being a pure athlete to a legit receiver last year, and up-and-comer Bralon Addison as well as Daryle Hawkins and Keanon Lowe are back. It's worth noting the top six pass-catchers overall are returning.
Washington: Kasen Williams is the headliner after catching 77 passes last year. He's big and fast. The next two leading wideouts, Jaydon Mickens and DiAndre Campbell, also are back. Like the Ducks, the Huskies' top six pass-catchers, which includes a TE and RB you might have heard of, are back. Washington and Oregon fans will delight in knowing that I switched these two at the last minute, when I decided you couldn't completely ignore Thomas as a receiver.
Oregon State: The Beavers cling to "great shape" only because the speedy Cooks could be headed for a huge season after he caught 67 passes for 1,151 yards -- 17.2 yards per catch -- last year. There are some depth questions, though Kevin Cummings and Richard Mullaney combined for 31 receptions last year and Obum Gwacham and Micah Hatfield are back.
California: Sure, Keenan Allen is gone, but there's lots of young talent that saw action last year. Chris Harper was second on the 2012 Bears with 41 catches, while speedy Bryce Treggs had 21. Darius Powe and Maurice Harris also saw action, while redshirt freshman Kenny Lawler is promising. This might turn out to be a "Great shape" crew -- if there's a QB getting them the ball consistently.
Colorado: Don't laugh -- the Buffaloes are solid at receiver, particularly with Paul Richardson back after missing 2012 with a knee injury. He's an All-Pac-12 type talent, and the top two receivers from 2012, Nelson Spruce and Tyler McCulloch, are also back. Further, converted running back D.D. Goodson is intriguing. Question for Buffs is QB, not WR.
Utah: The Utes two leading wideouts in 2012 are back. Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott combined for 69 catches last year. And they are probably better than folks think because the Utes' passing game problems started at QB, where true freshman Travis Wilson was taking his lumps most of the season. It hurts that projected starter Quinton Pedrosa was given the boot this summer for violating team rules.
Arizona: The Wildcats would have been in "Great shape" if Hill hadn't blown out his knee and Tyler Slavin hadn't left the program. The issue isn't experience: Five guys return with at least 20-catch seasons. But there's a decided lack of a go-to guy. The leading returning receiver, Dave Richards, caught just 29 passes last year and ranked fourth on the team.
Stanford: Five of the top six receivers from 2012 are gone, though it's worth noting the top two didn't play receiver. While Ty Montgomery hinted at his potential in 2012, he only caught 26 passes for 213 yards with no TDs. After that, there are just names and potential based on strong spring performances: Devon Cajuste, Michael Rector, Kodi Whitfield and Kelsey Young.
Arizona State: None of the Sun Devils' top five pass catchers from 2012 are back playing receiver this fall. The position was decidedly questionable last year -- see the top three receivers being a tight end and a pair of running backs -- and it is even more so this year, in large part because it's the team's only obvious hole. Yet, great hope hangs on incoming players, most notably the touted Jaelen Strong.