Last week we examined the best of the Big 12 running backs coming into the 2014 season and ranked the teams in the conference according to the quality and depth of the players they have at that position.
This week it is all about wide receivers, and in a pass-happy conference like the Big 12, you would expect the league to be well stocked with current and future outstanding talent in the pass receiving department.
Big 12 receivers greatly benefit from the fact that there are so many talented and highly capable quarterbacks in the conference. Arguably at the top of the list of the top Big 12 quarterbacks is Baylor senior Bryce Petty, who is on the preseason watch list for several national individual awards in the coming season and also has been tabbed at the preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Right behind Petty, if not right beside him on the ability scale, is Jake Waters of Kansas State.
Given that Baylor and Kansas State have the league’s two best quarterbacks at the offensive controls, it’s not all that surprising that those two teams have two of the best receivers in the Big 12, if not the entire country.
Kansas State’s Kevin Lockett and Antwan Goodley are two of a deep list of big-play receivers that contribute mightily to the Big 12’s ranking as a high-scoring conference with high-potency offensive numbers.
Here is how we rank the Big 12 teams on their relent and anticipated production at the wide receiver position, some 45 days out before the start of an all-new college football season:
- Baylor Bears – It seems every season, Baylor losses one of the conference’s best receivers, only to reload with new pass-catching weapons. This year is no exception. Tevin Reese is the latest to move on, but look for a huge year from Antwan Goodley.
- Kansas State Wildcats – The team that is historically known for ball-control, ground-oriented offenses will be putting the ball up in the air a ton in 2014, with the league’s best receiver, Tyler Lockett on the receiving end of most of them.
- Texas Tech Red Raiders – What would the Red Raiders be without a whole posse of grab-and-gallop pass-receiving bandits? Sophomore QB Davis Webb showed in 2013 that he has a strong and accurate arm and he has two sure-handed receivers in junior Jakeem Grant and senior Bradley Marquez. Some experts are saying that this year’s Red Raider receiving corps could be the fastest to ever play at Texas Tech. Scary thought with so many able-bodied receiving targets to choose from in this offense.
- Texas Longhorns – The Longhorns prefer to pound the ball with a deep and talented backfield, but it is their running back strength that opens up the field for a talented group of fleet-of-foot receivers. Four of the five top Texas receivers from last season are back in 2014, headed by senior Jaxon Shipley and junior Kendall Sanders. Junior Marcus Johnson, wh0 caught a 59-yard touchdown pass against Oklahoma last season, replaces the departed Mike Davis as a deep threat. Daje Johnson has blazing speed and will keep defenses on high alert as well.
- Oklahoma Sooners – Inexperience at wide receiver could be the weak link in the Sooners championship aspirations in 2014, but that is not to say that they don’t have excellent potential at the receiver position. Junior Sterling Shepard in OU’s best returning receiver. The next wave will come from junior Durron Neal, sophomore Derrick Woods and perhaps redshirt freshman K.J. Young. Former QB Blake Bell moves to tight end and brings with him size and foot speed. The Sooners also have a wild card that could vault them up to No, 2 or 3 in the league. Missouri transfer Dorial Green-Beckham, one of the best wide receivers in the country, could get a transfer waiver allowing him to play in 2014. If so, OU might have the best receiving corps in the conference
- Oklahoma State Cowboys – Hard to believe this, but the Cowboys lose their two best receivers from last season and might be even better this season. Sophomore Jhajuan Seales in the most experienced of the returning receivers, and OSU also is very high on junior-college transfer Tyreek Hill, who has been voted by the media as the Big 12 2014 Preseason Newcomer of the Year.
- Iowa State Cyclones – Quenton Bundrage nade 48 receptions in 2013 for nearly 700 yards and nine touchdowns. He will draw most of the attention when QB Grant Rohack drops back on passing downs. Iowa State also brings in a highly touted freshman receiver, Allen Lazard, who will probably see action early in the Cyclone offense. Shifty Jarvis West returns to action after being injured last season, which should give the Cyclones a boost when they have the ball.
- TCU Horned Frogs – The Horned Frogs finished fifth in the Big 12 in passing offense in 2013, but coach Gary Patterson and his staff felt the receiving corps underperformed. The status of senior wide receiver Brandon Carter is still up in the air. According to team officials, he is having academic issues. If Carter is not available this fall (he had 31 receptions in 2013), David Porter would be the leading returning receiver from a year ago. Porter caught 26 passes, five of which went for touchdowns, last season. Trevone Boykin, whose primary position the last two seasons has been at quarterback, is expected to spend a lot more time in the slot this season. He caught 21 passes in the final four TCU games last season, and with his quickness, Boykin becomes an added offensive threat as a pass receiver in open space.
- West Virginia Mountaineers - The Mountaineers leading receiver a year ago was freshman Daikiel Shorts, who had 41 catches in 2013, but seniors Kevin White and Mario Alford for much higher contributions in the coming 2o14 season. West Virginia also is hoping for a boost in the pass-receiving area from former four-star recruit Shelton Gibson, who encountered eligibility issues last season and sat out the year.
- Kansas Jayhawks – The Jayhawks have brought in a new receivers coach and are expected to be better in the pass receiving department in 2014. But let’s be honest, we’re talking about a team that has been among the worst in the history of the Big 12 in this department the last couple of years. Two years ago, as an example, Kansas did not record one touchdown catch by a true receiver. So getting appreciably better at the position in 2014 doesn’t really mean that much relative to the rest of the conference. Tony Pierson was the team’s leading receiver last season, and he played mainly at running back and sometimes receiver. This season Pierson is listed at wide receiver.