SEC position rankings: Receiver/tight end
Team Position Rankings:
- Running backs
- Wide receivers/tight ends
- Offensive line
- Defensive line
- Defensive backs
- Special teams
The SEC is very weak when it comes to a returning crop of quarterbacks this season. One could make the argument it’s the weakest Power 5 Conference in that regard.
While many schools still haven’t decided who will be under center, there are some terrific receivers to catch those balls in 2015.
Will it be as good as the 2014 group? That will be hard to match with guys like Alabama’s Amari Cooper, a Heisman finalist, Auburn’s Sammie Coates and Missouri’s Bud Sasser all having departed. But let’s break down every team based on their overall talent at receiver, and to a lesser extent tight end, for the coming season.
1. Texas A&M
Ones to watch: Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil, Christian Kirk, Ricky Seals-Jones
Overall, eight different returning wide receivers caught touchdown passes last season. Reynolds, Noil, Kirk and Seals-Jones will be the top targets for quarterback Kyle Allen. Reynolds was one of SEC’s breakout players a year ago with 13 touchdown catches, which earned him second-team All-SEC honors. He was named a preseason third-team All-SEC. Noil, also one of the SEC’s top return men, caught 46 passes for 583 yards and five scores. And as his name suggests, he’s a burner. Seals-Jones had 49 catches for 465 yards and four scores in 2014. He’s a monster at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds.
2. Ole Miss
Ones to watch: Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core, Damore’ea Stringfellow, Evan Engram
Treadwell could be the No. 1 receiver taken in the 2016 draft if he declares. His 2014 season ended with a gruesome broken leg against Auburn, but he had 48 receptions for 632 yards and five scores last year. At times, he was simply not guardable. Stringfellow is a transfer from Washington who caught 20 balls for 259 yards and a score in 2013 before sitting out last year. Engram was the first-team All-SEC tight end last year and John Mackey Award semifinalist. He led all SEC tight ends with 662 receiving yards and was second with 38 catches. He led the nation’s tight ends by averaging 17.4 yards per catch. To no surprise, Engram is the preseason first-team All-SEC pick.
ON THE CUSP
Ones to watch: Marquez North, Pig Howard, Von Pearson
This ranking would have slipped had the Vols lost North to a season-ending knee injury, as an erroneous report out of Knoxville insinuated this week. Now he’s only expected to miss a few practices. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound North caught 30 passes for 320 yards and four touchdowns despite some nagging injuries. Howard caught 54 balls for 618 yards and a score in 2014. He has caught a pass in the last 33 games he has played dating back to his debut against Florida in 2012. Pearson, recently reinstated, reeled in 38 catches for 393 yards and four scores last year.
Ones to watch: Travin Dural, Malachi Dupre, D.J. Chark
LSU knows how to crank out receivers. Just look at what Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry did in the NFL last year as rookies. Now if the 2015 team could only find a quarterback who can throw the ball with some accuracy. Dural ranked third among SEC receivers last season with eight catches of 30 yards or more and led LSU with 37 catches and seven TDs while averaging 20.5 yards per reception. Dupre showed signs why he was a five-star recruit, catching 14 passes for 318 yards and four scores.
5. Mississippi State
Ones to watch: De’Runnya Wilson, Fred Ross, Joe Morrow
The Bulldogs have the SEC’s best returning quarterback in Heisman Trophy contender Dak Prescott, and some believe this is the best group of receivers in Starkville in the Dan Mullen Era. Former basketball player Wilson is a matchup nightmare at 6-foot-5, 225 pounds. Think Prescott may throw a few jump balls his way? Wilson had 47 grabs for 680 yards and nine scores in 2014. He is a preseason second-team All-SEC selection. Ross caught 30 passes for 489 yards and five scores and Morrow went 17/344/4.
Ones to watch: D’haquille Williams, Ricardo Louis, Melvin Ray, Marcus Davis
No question Auburn will miss the big-play ability of Coates. But new starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson still has plenty of weapons, led by preseason first-team All-SEC pick “Duke” Williams. The JUCO recruit had 45 catches for 730 yards in his debut last year and pondered going pro. Louis had 21 grabs for 261 yards and three scores, and Davis 13 grabs for 92 yards and a TD. Look for much bigger seasons from both.
POTENTIAL IS THERE
Ones to watch: Robert Foster, ArDarius Stewart, Chris Black, O.J. Howard, Calvin Ridley, Richard Mullaney
No team lost more at receiver than the Tide from 2014. Cooper was arguably the best in school history. DeAndrew White also is in the NFL now and he was a terrific No. 2. Foster, Stewart and Black all have the high school pedigrees to shine on this level and now they get the chance to get out of Cooper’s shadow. Howard is a preseason third-team All-SEC tight end. He caught 17 passes for 260 yards in 2014 but could see those numbers at least double with so much inexperience at receiver.
Ones to watch: Malcolm Mitchell, Isaiah McKenzie, Justin Scott-Wesley, Reggie Davis, Jeb Blazevich
Who will throw to these guys? That’s to be determined in Georgia’s camp. Mitchell has all the talent in the world but has trouble staying healthy. He missed all of 2013 with a torn ACL and had 31 catches for 248 yards and two TDs in 2014. Mitchell has to stay on the field. Blazevich could compete for All-SEC honors this season at tight end after 18 grabs for 269 yards and two scores last year. Frankly, Georgia is going to run so much with Nick Chubb that no receiver may put up big numbers.
9. South Carolina
Ones to watch: Pharoh Cooper, Jerell Adams
Cooper is the top returning receiver in the conference. He earned first-team All-SEC honors last season after catching 69 passes for 1,136 yards and nine touchdowns. Cooper is a preseason All-SEC second-team pick and there are a lot of questions after him. Adams, a tight end, will be a popular target for whomever South Carolina’s QB is with Cooper likely getting plenty of double-teams. Adams caught 38 balls for 556 yards and four scores a season ago.
Ones to watch: DeMarcus Robinson, Jake McGee, Brandon Powell
Robinson, a junior, should be the go-to guy for either Will Grier or Treon Harris. Robinson caught 58 passes for 833 yards and seven scores last year. McGee was one of the ACC’s best tight ends in 2013 at Virginia when he led the Cavs with 43 catches. He broke his leg in the first game with Florida last year and received a medical hardship sixth season.
Ones to watch: Keon Hatcher, Hunter Henry, Dominique Reed
Hatcher is back after leading the Hogs in catches (43), yards (558) and touchdowns (six) a season ago. Henry was the preseason All-SEC first-team pick at tight end. He had 37 receptions for 513 yards and two touchdowns last season. Henry was one of only two tight ends in the conference to have a 100-plus receiving game (at Mississippi State).
THE REST …
The Commodores would have been a spot higher, perhaps, but already have lost top receiver C.J. Duncan for the season. Duncan, a sophomore, led all Vanderbilt receivers with 441 receiving yards and four touchdowns last season. He was injured this week at practice without contact while returning a kickoff.