Friday, June 27, 2014
Preseason position reviews: Receivers
By Ted Miller
It's time to start our preseason position reviews. Please, hold your applause until we are finished.
Here's how we do this. We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."
Hint: You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."
"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see because there's no way at present to know.
You can review last year's rankings here.
We continue the series with receivers, a deep position in the conference. This position was difficult to rank because some teams have a star coming back but little depth while others lack a star but are very deep. Further, no Pac-12 team seems truly desperate here.
Stanford: It might seem odd for a run-first football team like the Cardinal to top this list but Stanford has both a star (Ty Montgomery) and veteran returning depth (Devon Cajuste and Michael Rector) coming back. Some younger players, such as Francis Owusu, also could get into the mix.
Arizona: The Pac-12 blog believes that the Wildcats might end up having the best crew of receivers in the nation, but they don't top this list because there are some questions. For one, it remains to be seen if Austin Hill returns to his 2012 form after missing last year with a knee injury. Indications during spring practices were positive, but we'll only know when the games begin. Further, Texas transfer Cayleb Jones and Notre Dame transfer DaVonte Neal looked great this spring -- as in all-conference great -- but they haven't taken any Pac-12 snaps. Even with those questions, the Wildcats are still solid with 2013 leading receiver Nate Phillips, David Richards and Trey Griffey.
Washington State: Everybody is back from a good crew of 2013 receivers. The Cougars return their top four and nine of their top-10 pass-catchers from last year. There's size and speed, eager youth and grizzled experience. Gabe Marks, Kristoff Williams and River Cracraft were the leaders last year, but watch out for 6-foot-4, 240-pound Vince Mayle, who should be more than a red zone threat this fall.
USC: The Trojans are an example of a team that leads with a star -- preseason All-American Nelson Agholor -- but has some questions thereafter. Those questions, however, could have some at least solid answers if sophomore Darreus Rogers takes another step forward, George Farmer finally stays healthy and Victor Blackwell breaks through. And, of course, with USC there are always youngsters with plenty of talent to make plays (Steven Mitchell, JuJu Smith, Adoree Jackson, etc.)
Arizona State: The Sun Devils are like USC in that they have a superstar in Jaelen Strong, but they have more questions after him. That said, redshirt freshman Ellis Jefferson is an up-and-comer and expectations are high for junior college transfer Eric Lauderdale. Further, Kyle Middlebrooks showed during spring practices he's an option as a slash-type RB/WR.
California: There's a temptation to rate California lower here because the Bears went 1-11 last year, but our position is that many teams ranked in the preseason top-25 would eagerly trade their receivers for what Cal has coming back. The top four wideouts from last season all return. Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper each caught 70 passes or more last year, and Kenny Lawler and Darius Powe are talented.
UCLA: The Bruins lost Shaq Evans, but they aren't worried. After spring practices, the general feeling is this is a position of strength, one that can boost quarterback Brett Hundley's Heisman Trophy chances. Three guys lead the charge: Devin Fuller (43 catches, 471 yards), Jordan Payton (38-440) and Devin Lucien (19-339). Sophomore Eldridge Massington and speedy Kenneth Walker should have an impact, and while we sort of consider Y-receiver Thomas Duarte a tight end, we'll note him here.
Utah: The Utes not only welcome back a 1,000-yard receiver in Dres Anderson -- 18.9 yards per catch -- they also are getting Kenneth Scott back. Scott, who caught 32 passes in 2012, suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the 2013 opener against Utah State. That's a potentially outstanding combo. Depth is a question. There are high expectations for junior college transfer Kaelin Clay to perhaps provide at least part of the answer.
Washington: The transfer of Damore'ea Stringfellow after off-field problems hurts, and it remains to be seen how quickly Kasen Williams returns to form after breaking his fibula and damaging foot ligaments on Oct. 26 against California. Still, Jaydon Mickens, who led the team with 65 catches for 688 yards with five touchdowns in 2013, and John Ross, who has outstanding speed, are back, as are DiAndre Campbell and Marvin Hall.
Oregon State: The Beavers lost Brandin Cooks, the nation's best receiver in 2013. While there's some solid guys coming back, there also is the question about how easy Cooks' presence made life for them -- and how hard things might be in his absence. Still, sure-handed Richard Mullaney caught 52 passes for 788 yards in 2013, and expectations are high for Victor Bolden and Malik Gilmore. There also is some intriguing young talent.
Colorado: While the Buffaloes rank low here, receiver isn't their biggest concern. This actually might end up a solid crew. The obvious issue is replacing the production of Paul Richardson, and that's going to happen by committee if it happens. The good news is the next three leading receivers from 2013 are back: Nelson Spruce (650 yards), D.D. Goodson (306 yards) and Tyler McCulloch (138 yards). Devin Ross and Brice Bobo are youngsters who appear ready to step up.
Oregon: Despite losing three of their top four receivers, the Ducks looked fine here until Bralin Addison blew out his knee in spring practices. Addison was a budding star and will be missed. Keanon Lowe, now the leading returning receiver with 18 receptions, is more a No. 2 guy. There are options, though they are unproven. Dwayne Stanford is back from a knee injury, and Darren Carrington had a good spring. Chance Allen and speedster Devon Allen -- no relation -- are intriguing talents. And maybe B.J. Kelly finally breaks through? Or freshmen Jalen Brown and Charles Nelson make an immediate impact?
OTHER POSITION REVIEWS