10 most underrated wide receivers in SEC history
The Southeastern Conference is best known for team speed and elite defense, as well as Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks and running backs.
Running backs have even overshadowed receivers as pass-catchers. (Vanderbilt’s Keith Edwards, a running back/receiver like Florida’s Brandon Powell, set the league mark with 97 receptions in 1983, which stood for 20 years.)
Many of the great receivers to come through the league have been overlooked on a national stage.
When we think of the best wide receivers in SEC history, recent stars like Laquon Treadwell, Amari Cooper, A.J. Green, Alshon Jeffery, Mike Evans and Julio Jones come to mind, as well as other 21st-century flankers like Josh Reed and all-purpose weapon Percy Harvin.
Of course, the SEC has produced many great receivers throughout history, such as Auburn’s Terry Beasley and LSU’s Wendell Davis. Peyton Manning’s favorite targets at Tennessee — Joey Kent, Marcus Nash, and Peerless Price – all rank highly, as should Alabama legends Ozzie Newsome (who played both tight end and split end) and Don Hutson.
However, countless SEC wide receivers were underrated during their college careers. Some have been eclipsed by modern wideouts that have the benefit of playing longer schedules, or in up-tempo spread offenses, which has led to more impressive statistics. Kentucky wideouts during the Hal Mumme regime (such as Craig Yeast) and the Bobby Petrino era at Arkansas (Jarius Wright and Cobi Hamilton) certainly fit that bill.
Though we couldn’t possibly name everyone, here are 10 of the most underrated wide receivers ever to play in the SEC.
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
Because Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews played for the Commodores, he flew under both in the SEC and on the national stage for the majority of his record-setting career. Like Darren McFadden, Matthews doesn’t receive as much recognition as he deserves as one of college football’s all-time greats.
Matthews claims two of the best single-season efforts ever by an SEC wide receiver, yet he never received consensus All-American honors. Instead, Matthews received only first-team honors from USA Today and Athlon Sports among national publications in 2013 when he set an SEC record with 112 receptions and 1,477 receiving yards.
As it turned out, Texas A&M’s Mike Evans and Oregon State wideout Brandin Cooks (the Biletnikoff Award winner) overshadowed Matthews, who also competed for recognition with players like Sammy Watkins and Kelvin Benjamin.
Matthews’ spectacular senior effort followed a junior campaign in which he gained 1,323 yards on 94 catches – both of which still rank in the top 10 on the SEC single-season leaderboard. Matthews’ production was a major factor for Vanderbilt winning a combined 18 games and finishing ranked in the AP Top 25 in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
Matthews still owns the SEC record for career receptions (262) and receiving yards (3,759).
Chris Doering, Florida
The names of great Gators receivers include Ike Hilliard, Reidel Anthony, Jack Jackson, Willie Jackson, Jacquez Green, Jabar Gaffney, Andre Caldwell and Percy Harvin. However, none of them caught as many touchdown passes for the Gators as Doering.
In fact, no one in SEC history has been on the receiving end of more TD passes – which makes it one of the most overlooked records in league history.
Doering walked on to the Florida football program in 1991, and established himself as one of the most dependable targets for Danny Wuerffel and Terry Dean as a sophomore and junior (553 and 496 receiving yards, respectively).
As a senior, Doering exploded for 70 receptions, 1,045 yards and a then-SEC record 17 TDs. Doering also helped the Gators win their third consecutive SEC title.
Overall, Doering caught 31 touchdown passes across his last three seasons in Gainesville, which broke Auburn legend Terry Beasley’s all-time mark of 29 set in 1971. Doering stood alone on the all-time SEC leaderboard until 2014 when Amari Cooper tied him.
Terrence Edwards, Georgia
Doering nearly lost hold of his SEC TD receptions record in 2002, when Georgia wide receiver Terrence Edwards caught touchdown No. 30. However, Edwards, who also finished his career second on the all-time conference leaderboard in receptions (204), was able to break the all-time SEC record with 3,093 receiving yards – which stood for 11 years until Matthews came along.
Edwards still ranks in the top six in SEC history in all three major receiving categories, yet he’s underrated outside the league’s footprint and is often lost in the shuffle when discussing the great college wideouts of the last 15 years. It’s also worth noting that Edwards competed with Fred Gibson (10th in SEC history in receiving yards) for targets.
Listed at 6-foot and 171 pounds, Edwards was at his best as a senior when he set career highs with 59 receptions, 1,004 yards, an average of 17.0 yards per catch and 11 TDs. He also helped the Bulldogs win the SEC Championship for the first time in 20 years. Nevertheless, Edwards was shut out on every All-American list.
Despite his terrific collegiate career, Edwards went undrafted. He signed with the Atlanta Falcons and played one season in the NFL before going on to an All-Star career in the Canadian Football League. The incredible career of A.J. Green also has helped us overlook Edwards’ accomplishments in Athens.
Carlos Alvarez, Florida
Doering isn’t the only Florida wide receiver to be largely forgotten as a result of the star-studded group of wideouts to come through Gainesville. The Cuban-born Alvarez put together one of the greatest single seasons ever for the Gators in 1969 when he caught 88 passes (still a school record) for 1,329 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Alvarez was just the second SEC receiver to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a season (Bob Goodridge of Vanderbilt was the first in 1967). His 1,329 receiving yards stood as the conference record until Florida receiver Travis McGriff passed it with 1,357 yards in 1998.
One of the “Super Sophs” for head coach Ray Graves’ final Florida squad, Alvarez and the Gators posted a 9-1-1 record and finished No. 14 in the AP poll – the highest final ranking in school history at the time.
Though Alvarez and the Gators weren’t quite as good in 1970 or 1971, he still set school records with 172 receptions for 2,563 receiving yards and 19 touchdown catches. Andre Caldwell passed him on the Gators’ all-time receptions list, but Alvarez still holds the school record for receiving yards.
D.J. Hall, Alabama
Before there was Julio Jones or Amari Cooper, there was D.J. Hall. Hall is often overlooked because of the era in which he played for the Crimson Tide – the final three years of Mike Shula’s tenure as head coach and the first season following Nick Saban’s arrival in Tuscaloosa – when Alabama posted an uncharacteristic 29-21 overall record. Nevertheless, Hall made his mark on the Alabama record book.
Hall is the only Alabama player to ever post consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons and one of only two players ever to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in two seasons with the Tide (Cooper being the other). Hall set several school records including receptions (194) and receiving yards (2,923) and now ranks second to Cooper in both categories.
Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt
Matthews broke former Vandy running back Keith Edwards’ single-season reception record, and then he passed fellow Commodore Earl Bennett on the SEC’s all-time receptions list. In three seasons with the Commodores, Bennett never played on a winning team. He was, however, one of the SEC’s most feared wide receivers, and amassed 236 receptions for 2,852 yards and 20 TDs.
Bennett recorded at least 75 receptions, 830 receiving yards and 5 TDs each year at Vanderbilt. He also set SEC freshman records with 79 receptions for 876 yards in 2005.
Boo Mitchell, Vanderbilt
Would you believe that yet another former Vanderbilt receiver once held one of the SEC’s top receiving records? From 1985-88, Boo Mitchell amassed 2,964 receiving yards, which broke the mark set by LSU wideout Wendell Davis the previous season. Mitchell held on to the record until another LSU receiver, Josh Reed, passed him in 2001. As a senior, Mitchell led the SEC with 78 catches and 1,213 yards and also scored 5 TDs.
Who knew that with Matthews, Bennett, Mitchell and Dan Stricker, Vanderbilt could make a case as “Wide Receiver U” within the SEC?
Chris Collins, Ole Miss
One would think that Laquon Treadwell completely rewrote the Ole Miss receiving record book, but Chris Collins still holds the Ole Miss record with 24 touchdowns catches, and ranks second to Treadwell with 198 career receptions. Collins also ranks second in career receiving yards with the Rebels, just 25 yards shy of Shay Hodge on the all-time list.
Collins had the benefit of playing with Eli Manning. The pair connected on at least 54 passes each year from 2001-03, with Collins recording career highs of 77 receptions and 949 yards as a senior.
Mardye McDole, Mississippi State
One of the most explosive playmakers ever to take the field for the Bulldogs, Mardye McDole averaged 19.1 yards per catch at Mississippi State during his four-year career. In 1978, he hauled in 48 passes for 1,035 yards (a 21.6-yard average) and 7 touchdowns.
Had McDole not shifted to running back as a senior, he may still hold the school receiving record. Instead, McDole caught a career low 19 passes for 289 yards and one TD in 1980, which allowed Chad Bumphis to pass him by a mere 56 yards in 2012.
Anthony Lucas, Arkansas
Similar to McDole, Arkansas wideout Anthony Lucas was a big-play threat. In fact, Lucas holds the conference record with an average of 21.0 yards per reception, which he set from 1995-99 — surpassing Ozzie Newsome’s 22-year old mark.
Lucas led the league in yards per catch in three of his four full seasons in Fayetteville, topping out at 23.3 as a junior in 1998 with 43 receptions, 1,004 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also set school records with 2,879 receiving yards and 23 TDs and still ranks in the top three in both category.
As previously mentioned, there are many, many SEC receivers that excelled on the field while flying under the radar – far too many to discuss at length. However, here are others that deserve at least a mention.
- Chad Bumphis, Mississippi State
- Keenan Burton, Kentucky
- Wes Chandler, Florida
- Zola Davis, South Carolina
- Anthony Eubanks, Arkansas
- Bob Goodridge, Vanderbilt
- Tyrone Goodson, Auburn
- Andy Hamilton, LSU
- Shay Hodge, Ole Miss
- Dennis Homan, Alabama
- Brice Hunter, Georgia
- Steve Johnson, Kentucky
- Anthony Lucas, Arkansas
- Eric Martin, LSU
- Tim McGee, Tennessee
- Marcus Monk, Arkansas
- Bud Sasser, Missouri
- Larry Seivers, Tennessee
- David Smith, Mississippi State
- Dan Stricker, Vanderbilt
- Ryan Swope, Texas A&M