Partners in flight: Ranking the SEC's top 10 QB-receiver duos
With defenses often reeling and several SEC quarterbacks coming into their own this season, we’ve seen some borderline-ridiculous numbers through the air at times.
The QB has more built-in advantages than ever — run-pass option schemes, draconian defensive rules, etc. — but a quarterback still looks only as good as his receiving targets allow him to. Luckily, this league continues to be chock full of capable hands there, too.
Now that we’re more than halfway through the schedule, we took a look at the SEC’s top passer-receiver partnerships. In what will surely go down in history as the Kyle Pitts Rule, tight ends and H-backs were eligible for consideration. Quarterbacks are allowed to make the list more than once.
Injuries obviously impacted the rankings. LSU’s Myles Brennan and Terrace Marshall would have been ranked, for instance. They teamed up for 7 TD receptions in the first 3 games, but Brennan’s status moving forward from a serious abdominal injury is unknown. That’s why Mac Jones and Jaylen Waddle aren’t ranked as combo, either.
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And with that …
10. KJ Costello and Osirus Mitchell, Mississippi State
It’s pretty amazing a quarterback can rank 4th in passing yards per game in this conference while his team is dead last in its division. But that’s coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense for you. Mitchell has been Costello’s top receiver, catching 26 passes for 336 yards and 3 touchdowns.
9. Collin Hill and Shi Smith, South Carolina
Smith has been a rare bright spot for a team that just fired its head coach in the midst of a pandemic. His 53 catches are 3rd in the conference and have helped Hill to a serviceable season after transferring from Colorado State. Granted, this combo has more to do with Smith.
8. Kellen Mond and Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M
The jury was out on Mond coming into the season, but that’s no longer the case. His 244 yards per game rank 4th in the SEC, and Wydermyer (28 catches, 311 yards) is a big reason for the success. (Combo RB/receiver Ainias Smith also deserves credit with 26 receptions.)
7. Bo Nix and Seth Williams, Auburn
Yes, Nix has flaws. So do the Tigers. But his connection with Williams is undeniable — 28 catches, 511 yards and over 18 yards per reception. Williams has been fun to watch. The lone knock? Williams only has 3 TD catches.
6. Feleipe Franks and Treylon Burks, Arkansas
One of the feel-good stories of SEC football in 2020 has been the Razorbacks’ pluckiness. Franks and Burks define it, combining for 34 connections and 5 touchdowns. Franks is completing 68% of his passes (5th in the SEC) and has 16 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions.
5. Matt Corral and Kenny Yeboah, Ole Miss
Pitts isn’t the only tight end making waves in the SEC this season. Yeboah has benefited greatly from Lane Kiffin’s offense, lining up all over formations and finding seams left and right. And Corral has benefited from Yeboah, who has caught 25 passes for 509 yards and 6 touchdowns.
4. Mac Jones and John Metchie III, Alabama
The loss of Jaylen Waddle, who surely would have made this list if he were healthy, has only revealed just how talented Bama is at wideout this year. Metchie has caught just 24 passes, but it seems like every one of has a sizeable impact. His 86.2 yards per game are 5th in the league. And he’s 2nd to Waddle in yards per catch at 21.54. Call him Steady Metchie.
3. Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith, Alabama
Jones leads the league and ranks 3rd nationally in passer rating (210.32) and yards per game (396.3). Smith has been his favorite target in Waddle’s absence, catching 56 passes for 126.5 yards per game (both 5th in FBS and 2nd in the SEC). Smith has 8 TD catches, too, tied for 2nd in the SEC. Like most things with the Crimson Tide, their dominance isn’t complicated. Just thorough.
2. Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts, Florida
The Kyles Connection can’t be overstated, and it goes beyond Pitts’ 24 catches and 8 touchdowns. Defenses have to game plan around the 6-6, 246-pound tight end, which has opened up all kinds of windows for Trask to show off his arm. Trask ranks a tad behind Jones in most national passing categories, and an SEC Championship Game matchup between those two would be phenomenal — and potentially decide the Heisman.
1. Matt Corral and Elijah Moore, Ole Miss
In some ways, Ole Miss is the new Oregon — if they’re on TV, you at least stop to see if they have the ball and what they might do next on offense. Chances are, it’ll involve Corral finding the elusive, athletic Moore, the nation’s top receiver with 74 catches and over 1,000 yards (to go with 8 TDs) — in just 7 games. Corral leads the SEC in passing yards with 2,359. Sure, he’s played 1 more game than Trask or Jones, but he might be the most electric of the trio.