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Ranking the Big Ten Positional Groups: Receivers

by Sal Soothsayer | Posted on Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

We continue our week-long analysis of the Big Ten by taking a closer look at the pass-catchers.

 

Monday – Offensive Backfield
Tuesday – Receivers
Wednesday – Offensive Line
Thursday – Defensive Line
Friday – Linebackers
Saturday – Secondary
Sunday – The Coaches

Stefon Diggs of Maryland is one of the best receivers in the country. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Stefon Diggs of Maryland is one of the best receivers in the country. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

As offenses have become more wide open in recent years the play of the wide receiver and tight end has become increasingly important.  As more teams abandon the fullback position entirely, more weight has been placed on trying to find athletes and getting them in space.

The best units from top to bottom…

1. Ohio State – There is no shortage on talent here for quarterback Braxton Miller to work with.  Senior WR Devin Smith has 18 career TDs to his name and accumulated over 600 yards receiving each of the past two years.  Complimenting Smith will be sophomore Dontre Wilson who came in highly touted and will lineup primarily in the slot this season, although he could even see time in the backfield as well.  Senior tight end Jeff Heuerman is a polished player who should improve on last year’s solid number (26-466-4).  The supporting cast is deep and is led by junior Evan Spencer (22-216-3).

2. Maryland – If this ranking was based solely on wide receivers the Terrapins would be second to none.   Highly touted junior Stefon Diggs is one of the top two in the conference as he put up 34-587-3 in only seven games last season.  His classmate Deon Long suffered the same injury as Diggs against Wake Forest last year as it should be noted Long’s 32-489-1 was also compiled in a seven game campaign.  Junior Levern Jacobs led the team last year with 47-640-3 as he rounds out the best Wide Receiver threesome in the Big Ten.

3. Northwestern – This group might be the deepest in the Big Ten and they are led by seniors Christian Jones 54-668-4 and Tony Jones 55-630-4 whose similar numbers put pressure on the defensive backs.  Hybrid TE/H-Back/FB/Slot Dan Vitale also contributed 34-382-3 last season.  The most talented of the Wildcats pass-catchers is USC transfer Kyle Prater who has enormous potential.  Rutgers transfer Miles Shuler has game-breaking speed and hopes to make use of it in an offense more friendly to using his skillset.

4. Michigan State – Last fall senior Tony Lippett (44-613-2) emerged as Quarterback Connor Cook’s most reliable target and that doesn’t look to change this fall.  Cook will have other options to fall back on as well as the Sparty passing game could play more of a role than it has in the past.  Lippett will be supported by junior Macgarrett Kings Jr (43-513-3) and Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett could assume a starting spot this fall as well.  In addition to Keith Mumphery (18-299-3) and Aaron Burbridge (22-194-0) returning , sophomore tight end Josiah Price (17-210-4) put up nice numbers as a redshirt frosh in 2013.

5. Rutgers – This may be the surprise group of the Big Ten on the offensive side.  Tight End Tyler Kroft (Jr) led the team with 43-573-4 and may be the best at his position in the conference.  Key this year will be the health of Junior WR Leonte Carroo.  Carroo went 28-478-9 last year in very limited action as he was slowed by a series of injuries.  Carroo has the physical tools to be drafted in the top two rounds next season.  The success of the receivers will hinge upon the group supporting Kroft and Carroo.  Four sophomores in  Ruhann Peele (28-281-1), highly touted Andre Patton (3-49-1), Carlton Agudosi and returner extraordinaire Janarion Grant who took a punt and kick back for a TD in 2013 all have flashed potential.   Rumored Kansas transfer Andrew Turzilli (7-167-1) would add experience.

Rutgers TE Tyler Kroft was named to the 2014 John Mackey Award preseason watch list. (Ben Solomon)

Rutgers TE Tyler Kroft was named to the 2014 John Mackey Award preseason watch list. (Ben Solomon)

6. Michigan – The receiving corps in Ann Arbor will be led by 6’5 230 lbs junior Devin Funchess (49-748-6) who is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.  Funchess could be the best collegiate WR in the Conference this year.  After Funchess are players long on potential but short on productivity.  Many are predicting true frosh Freddy Canteen to step in and assume a major role.   If he is unable other players who could play a role are sophomore Jehu Chesson (15-221-1) and 2nd team All-Big Ten KR from 2013 Dennis Norfleet (Jr.) .  Tight End Jake Butt put up impressive numbers for a frosh (20-235-2) and looks to build on that this season.

7. Nebraska – Kenny Bell is the Cornhuskers most accomplished WR who has put up impressive career numbers 134-1901-15 over his first three seasons.  Supporting Bell is sophomore Jordan Westerkamp who put up 20-283-1 in his frosh campaign.  A host of Huskers will vie for the 3rd and 4th spots including but not limited to Sam Burtch (12-147-3) and Alonzo Moore (6-75).

8. Indiana – Certainly the Hoosiers are going to put up numbers on the offensive side and Senior Shane Wynn (46-633-11) should be the primary beneficiary here.  Starting alongside Wynn could be impressive true frosh Dominique Booth.  In the third spot look for Nick Stoner (12-226-1) to assume the reigns and he should be buttressed by Isaiah Roundtree (14-136-1) and Caleb Cornett.  Another true frosh Jordan Fuchs could challenge sophomore Danny Friend for the starting spot at tight end.

9. Penn State – The tight ends are a strength here while the wide receiver group is short on experience but not talent.  6’7” junior, Jesse James has eight career touchdowns and sophomore Adam Breneman went 15-183-3 as a freshman last year.  The TE group will be buttressed by incoming H-Back Mike Gesicki who has a world of athletic ability.  The experienced wide receivers are junior Geno Lewis who finished last year 18-234-3 and sophomore Richy Anderson 13-111-0.  Their running mates on the outside will be a host of highly touted freshmen:  De’Andre Thompkins, Saeed Blacknall and Chris Godwin.

10. Iowa – A reason for optimism in the passing game this year might come from the experience the Hawkeyes bring to the receiving corps this year.  The wide receiver position is headlined by senior Kevonte Martin-Manley (40-388-5) but he will have support around him as the Hawkeyes return four of their top five in yards receiving from last season.  In addition to Martin-Manley expect junior Tevaun Smith (24-310-1) and big play senior Desond Powell (12-291-2) to play a role.   Experienced tight ends will be led by senior Ray Hamilton (8-95) and junior Jake Duzey (19-270-2).

11. Minnesota –  The Golden Gophers passing attack will go through sophomore tight end Maxx Williams who led the team with 25-417-5 as a freshman last year.  Senior Drew Goodger (7-111-1) provides depth and a H-Back.  On the outside expect sophomore Drew Wolitarsky (15-259-1) and Isaac Fruechte (13-154-0) to hold down the starting positions.

12. Illinois – Junior College transfer Geronimo Allison is the headliner here.  Allison did show impressive stuff at the lower level last year (69-872-8) it remains to be seen if he can translate that success to Big Ten play.  Along with Allison expect Martize Barr (26-246-1) and Justin Hardee (11-95-0) to see more of the action.  Seniors Jon Davis (25-208-2) and Matt LaCosse (20-237-3) are a nice duo at tight end.

13. Purdue – Sophomore DeAngelo Yancey (32-546-2) had a very good true freshman campaign where he showed his hands and his ability to make a big play.  Yancey will get support from big play receiver junior Danny Anthrop (17-313-2) and sophomore Dan Monteroso.  The tight end position will need to get more productivity from and inexperienced group led by senior Justin Sinz.

14. Wisconsin – On paper this unit is the Badgers weakest.  Junior Jordan Fredrick (10-106-0) and Alex Erickson (9-127-0) are the wide receivers with the best career numbers.  Yes you read that right.  Tight end looks to be Sam Arneson (6-57-2).   While this is a capable group it is not one that has compiled many statistics at this point.

 

Follow Sal on Twitter for all of your Big Ten and Rutgers Football coverage from DoubleGSports.com.

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