Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Top performer: Wide receiver
By Edward Aschoff
Our look at the SEC's most productive returning players in 2012 continues with wide receivers.
The SEC returns five of the top 10 statistical wideouts from a year ago. Top statistical receiver Jarius Wright has departed, but the No. 2 receiver in the SEC is back, which means he'll have a chance to claim the crown as the league's top wideout in 2012.
Here is the conference's top returning producer at receiver:
Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee: While Rogers dealt with some issues last season that didn't pertain to football, he was still one of the best receiving threats in the SEC. He lead the league with 67 catches and was second with 1,040 receiving yards. He was also second in the conference with nine receiving touchdowns. Rogers finished the season averaging 15.5 yards per catch and hauled in six 100-yard receiving games, including having three in Tennessee's last four games. When he's totally invested, Rogers is a handful for defenders to stop. He's not only fast and can break away from defenders in a hurry but with his 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame, he's a much bigger load for defensive backs to handle.
The SEC returns four more of the top 10 statistical receivers from a year ago:
- Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt: He caught 41 passes for 778 yards and five touchdowns, and averaged 19 yards per catch.
- Tavarres King, Georgia: He caught 47 passes for 705 yards and eight touchdowns, and averaged 15 yards per catch.
- Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia: He caught 45 passes for 665 yards and four touchdowns, and averaged 14.8 yards per catch.
- Emory Blake, Auburn: He caught 36 passes for 613 yards and five touchdowns, and averaged 17 yards per catch.
Rogers will have his hands full trying to take the title of the SEC's best receiver, and it'll start in his own backyard, as big-time deep threat Justin Hunter is back from his ACL injury. Hunter might be the most gifted receiver in the league and he's showed in the past that it's hard to find a better deep threat with the speed and length he possesses. Quarterback Tyler Bray is no doubt salivating at the thought having both of these guys completely healthy for the fall.
Arkansas might have lost three NFL receivers from last year, but don't forget about Cobi Hamilton. Though he's been overshadowed at times, the senior-to-be has 85 career catches for 1,519 yards and 13 scores. He's fast and physical and with Tyler Wilson throwing the ball, he'll have plenty of chances to make a strong run as the league's best.
Odell Beckham at LSU came on strong as a true freshman last season, catching 41 passes for 475 yards and two touchdowns, and now that Rueben Randle is gone, Beckham should be LSU's top receiving target this fall. Florida's Andre Debose has yet to have a complete season at receiver, but he's the Gators best deep threat. If he can finally focus in a little more, he'll get more touches. Kentucky's La'Rod King was 11th in the league in receiving last year, and that was with major issues at the quarterback spot. A more settled QB situation in Lexington should help him move up the receiving chart.
As for some newcomers, Ryan Swope at Texas A&M is the first name you have to consider. He was third in the Big 12 in receiving, catching 89 passes for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns. He could have easily left for the NFL after last season. At Missouri, T.J. Moe returns as the Tigers' top receiver, but deep threat Marcus Lucas and incoming freshman Dorial Green-Beckham could also do some damage this fall. Lucas is a guy the coaches can't wait to let loose, but if Green-Beckham is as good as the coaches hope, he could be an instant star.