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The 50 Greatest Wide Receivers in College Football History

Alex CallosCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2017

The 50 Greatest Wide Receivers in College Football History

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    The college football world has seen its fair share of talented wide receivers over the years, particularly in the past few decades.

    Until the 1980s, there was not much of a passing game to speak about in college football.

    Recently the game has turned into high-flying shootouts that result in big time numbers.

    While some of the best receivers in college football played a long time ago, most of the greatest receivers come from the past few decades.

    With that being said, here are the top 50 receivers in the history of college football.

50. A.J. Green, Georgia (2008-2010)

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    A.J. Green only played three seasons at Georgia, but was a dominant force during those three years.

    He did not have the talent around him many others do and had a different quarterback each of his three seasons. Couple that with the fact that he was suspended for the first four games of his junior season.

    In three years, Green totaled 2,619 yards and 23 touchdowns on 166 receptions.

    Had he been able to stay on the field more, these numbers could be much higher.

49. Ryan Grice-Mullen, Hawaii (2005-2007)

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    Despite being injured for part of his sophomore season and only playing three years at Hawaii, Ryan Grice-Mullen had quite a career.

    He went over 1,200 yards both seasons he was healthy and helped lead a high-flying Hawaii offense.

    His senior year was by far his best as he finished with 106 receptions for 1,372 yards and 13 touchdowns.

    The career numbers of 3,370 yards and 36 touchdowns are big time —no matter what college it is.

48. Jabar Gaffney, Florida (2000-2001)

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    Jabar Gaffney was only a two-year player at Florida, but this sure-handed deep threat made some huge plays during those two seasons.

    After redshirting during his first season, Gaffney came back with 1,184 yards and 14 touchdowns on 71 receptions.

    He followed that up with 1,191 yards and 13 touchdowns on 67 catches during his sophomore season before leaving early for the NFL.

    If he had stayed another year or two, Gaffney's name would be much higher on the list.

47. Lee Evans, Wisconsin (1999-2003)

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    When it comes to speed, few in college football had it like Lee Evans.

    Evans was relatively quiet during his first two seasons in Madison, but came on strong during his final two years.

    As a junior he caught 75 passes for 1,545 yards and nine touchdowns. After sitting out the next season due to a torn ACL, Evans came back strong during his senior campaign, finishing with 1,213 yards and 13 touchdowns on 64 receptions.

    For his career, he finished with 3,382 yards and 26 touchdowns on 172 receptions.

    That's nearly 20 yards a catch.

46. Kevin Curtis, Utah State (2001-2002)

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    Kevin Curtis was a junior college transfer who only played two seasons at Utah State, but during those two years, he put together one of the best short careers a receiver has ever had.

    As a junior, Curtis caught 100 passes for 1,531 yards and 10 touchdowns.

    He followed that up as a senior with 74 receptions for 1,258 yards and nine touchdowns.

    Two huge seasons for this little man.

45. Charles Rogers, Michigan State (2001-2002)

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    Charles Rogers accomplished in two seasons what many dream to do in four.

    In 2001, he caught 57 passes for 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning First-Team All-Big Ten honors.

    The next year in 2002, Rogers caught 68 passes for 1,351 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was not only All-Big Ten, but also First-Team All-America and recipient of the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation's best receiver.

    Rogers finished his two-year career with 2,551 yards and 25 touchdowns, while averaging 20.4 yards a catch. 

44. Chris Williams, New Mexico State (2005-2008)

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    On his way to 3,555 yards and 32 touchdowns on 246 receptions over his four-year career, Chris Williams had two huge seasons for New Mexico State.

    He transitioned from running back to receiver after his freshman season, and as a sophomore he caught 92 passes for 1,415 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    Following a mediocre junior season that did feature 11 touchdowns, Williams totaled 86 catches for 1,271 yards and nine touchdowns during his senior season.

43. Dwayne Jarrett, USC (2004-2006)

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    Like many other names on the list, Dwayne Jarrett was only around for three years.

    The best of those years came during his sophomore season. He caught 91 passes for 1,274 yards and 16 touchdowns, earning All-America honors.

    He followed that up with a junior season that featured 70 receptions for 1,015 yards and 12 touchdowns, once again earning All-America honors.

    Jarrett also finished ninth in the Heisman voting in 2006.

    He totaled 3,138 yards and 41 touchdowns in only three years at USC.

42. Greg Salas, Hawaii (2007-2010)

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    Everyone knows Hawaii loves to pass, and Greg Salas put up extraordinary numbers in his four years at Hawaii.

    After totaling just under 900 yards during his first two years on the island, Salas had 1,590 yards and eight touchdowns on 106 receptions as a junior.

    He came back as a senior to have one of the best seasons for a receiver in recent memory.

    Salas caught 119 passes for 1,849 yards and 14 touchdowns.

    His 4,345 career receiving yards rank him in the all-time top 10 in college football history.

41. Kendall Wright, Baylor (2008-2011)

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    Kendall Wright just completed an impressive four seasons at Baylor, capped off with an impressive senior year.

    Wright caught 108 passes for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. He went over 600 yards all four years at Baylor and finished his career as the most decorated receiver in Baylor history. 

    He finished with 4,004 yards and 30 touchdowns on 302 receptions.

40. Taylor Stubblefield, Purdue (2001-2004)

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    While at Purdue, all Taylor Stubblefield did was catch passes.

    At the time of his graduation, he was the all-time NCAA leader in receptions with 316. A record that was held until last season.

    Besides the 316 catches, Stubblefield also had 3,433 yards and 19 touchdowns.

    He caught at least 64 passes in all four seasons at Purdue and was over 700 yards in all four of those seasons also.

39. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State (2007-2009)

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    Even though Dez Bryant was never able to show what he could truly do because of a suspension, when on the field, he was one of the most talented receivers in college football history.

    After 622 yards on 43 receptions as a freshman, Bryant followed that up with 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns on 87 receptions, earning All-America honors as a sophomore.

    His junior season was cut extremely short due to suspension, and Bryant then moved on to the NFL.

    He finished his career with 2,425 yards and 29 touchdowns.

38. Mike Williams, USC (2002-2003)

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    Mike Williams only stayed two years at USC, but he put up huge numbers during those two seasons.

    As a freshman he caught 81 passes for 1,265 yards and 14 touchdowns.

    In 2003, as a sophomore, Williams had 1,314 yards and 16 touchdowns on 95 receptions. He was a consensus All-American and finished eighth in the Heisman voting.

37. Ryan Yarborough, Wyoming (1990-1993)

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    Ryan Yarborough may be a relative unknown, but he is in the top-five all time in yards for a wide receiver.

    He finished his career at Wyoming with 4,357 yards and 42 touchdowns, while averaging 19 yards a catch.

    Yarborough was consistent during his four seasons at Wyoming, going over 1,000 yards during each of his final three seasons.

36. Peter Warrick, Florida State (1996-1999)

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    Peter Warrick not only did it as a wide receiver, but also as a punt returner at the collegiate level.

    He had his best season as a receiver during his junior campaign, when he totaled 1,232 yards and 11 touchdowns on 61 receptions, averaging over 20 yards a catch.

    For his career, Warrick had 3,517 yards and 31 touchdowns on 207 receptions.

35. Patrick Edwards, Houston (2008-2011)

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    While Houston loves to throw the ball around and always puts up huge numbers, the stats of Patrick Edwards simply don't lie.

    He recently finished his career with 4,507 yards and 43 touchdowns on 291 receptions. Those numbers put him in elite company.

    As a senior, Edwards had his biggest season, finishing with 1,752 yards and 20 touchdowns on 89 receptions.

    He was over 1,000 yards in each of his final three seasons.

34. Emmanuel Sanders, SMU (2006-2009)

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    Emmanuel Sanders was a model of consistency during his four seasons at SMU.

    He was over 600 yards in every season at SMU and also caught at least 46 passes in each of his four years.

    Sanders improved steadily during his four years and finished it up with a senior season that totaled 1,339 yards and seven touchdowns on 98 receptions.

    Over his four-year career, Sanders totaled 3,791 yards and and 34 touchdowns on 285 receptions.

33. Raghib Ismail, Notre Dame (1988-1990)

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    Raghib Ismail did more than catch the ball in college and never put up huge numbers, but the way he changed the game puts him near the middle of the list.

    Ismail not only did it on offense with 1,565 yards receiving and four touchdowns over three years, but he also did it as a kick returner.

    Ismail also put up big rushing stats. He was so explosive all over the field that he finished 10th in the Heisman race in 1989 and was runner-up in 1990, while being named an All-American during that season. 

32. Greg Jennings, Western Michigan (2002-2005)

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    Many people may not even know what college Greg Jennings went to, but he had quite a career at Western MIchigan.

    Jennings went over 1,000 yards each of his final three seasons and had 11 or more touchdowns each of those three years as well.

    The best of those years was his senior campaign, when he caught 98 passes for 1,259 yards and 14 touchdowns.

    He finished his four years with 3,539 yards and 39 touchdowns on 238 receptions.

31. Josh Davis, Marshall (2001-2004)

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    Josh Davis was on some really good teams during his four seasons at Marshall.

    He was over 800 yards every season and had his best year during his sophomore campaign.

    Davis caught 75 passes during that season with 1,191 yards and five touchdowns.

    He was never big on touchdowns and only finished his career with 23, but he had 306 receptions and 3,884 yards.

30. Jordan White, Western Michigan (2007-2011)

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    Jordan White followed Greg Jennings up at Western Michigan and had an even better career.

    He finished with 4,187 yards and 32 touchdowns on 306 receptions.

    In 2011, during his senior campaign, White had 140 receptions, which ranks in the top five all-time for a single season. He also had 1,911 yards, also top five for a single season and 17 touchdowns. 

    That followed up a 94 catch, 1,378 yard and 10 touchdown junior season.

29. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech (2004-2006)

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    Calvin Johnson is one of the few players on the list who is actually better at the next level than he was in college.

    He did excel at the college level, though.

    Johnson only stayed three years at Georgia Tech, and was over 800 yards each of those three seasons.

    He finished his career with 2,927 yards and 28 touchdowns.

    As a junior, Johnson caught 76 passes for 1,202 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was a consensus All-American and finished 10th in the Heisman balloting.

28. Austin Collie, BYU (2004-2008)

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    Even though Austin Collie was at BYU for five years, he only played in three seasons.

    He was over 700 yards each year and had a monumental senior season. Collie caught 106 passes for 1,538 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior. 

    For his three-year career, he caught 215 passes for 3,255 yards and 30 touchdowns.

    Collie was a sure-handed possession receiver, much like he is in the NFL.

27. Roy Williams, Texas (2000-2003)

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    Roy Williams is one of the rare, talented receivers who stayed around four years in college.

    He was over 800 yards each of his first two seasons and over 1,000 during his final two.

    As a junior, Williams caught 64 balls for 1,142 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    During his four-year career, he had 3,866 yards and 36 touchdowns on 241 receptions. Those are some huge numbers playing against big-time competition.

26. Marcus Harris, Wyoming (1993-1996)

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    Marcus Harris put together three straight 1,400-yard seasons during the mid 90s, and is another Wyoming receiver on the list.

    Harris totaled 1,431 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore. During his junior season, he had 1,423 yards and 14 touchdowns.

    During his senior season, Harris finished with 1,650 yards and 13 touchdowns on 109 receptions.

    He finished his career with 4,518 yards, which is in the top five all-time in NCAA history. He also had 38 touchdowns and 259 receptions to go along with it.

    Even playing for Wyoming, he still finished ninth in the Heisman balloting in 1996 and as an All-American as well.

25. Manny Hazard, Houston (1989-1990)

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    Many people may not have heard of Manny Hazard, as he only played two seasons at Houston.

    He played with Heisman trophy winner Andre Ware and was his main target in 1989.

    During that season, Hazard set the single-season record with 142 receptions. A number that stood until 2009.

    He also had 1,689 yards and 22 touchdowns in 1989.

    After 946 yards his senior season, he moved on to the CFL.

24. Darius Watts, Marshall (2000-2003)

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    Darius Watts is one of a handful of college receivers to go over 4,000 yards for a career.

    He finished his four years at Marshall with 4,031 yards on 272 receptions.

    Watts biggest season was as a sophomore. He had 91 catches for 1,417 yards and 18 touchdowns that year.

    Watts was an integral part in the success of Marshall during the Byron Leftwich years.

23. Keyshawn Johnson, USC (1994-1995)

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    Keyshawn Johnson had two fabulous seasons at USC before becoming the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 1996 NFL draft.

    After transferring from junior college, Johnson had 1,140 yards and six touchdowns as a junior.

    He followed that up with 1,218 yards and six touchdowns on 90 receptions as a senior, earning him All-America honors and allowing him to finish seventh in the Heisman race.

22. Freddie Barnes, Bowling Green (2006-2009)

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    Freddie Barnes started his collegiate career at Bowling Green as a quarterback in 2006.

    After a few games there, he moved over to wide receiver, a position that ended up fitting him nicely.

    Barnes had two solid seasons, but came on strong as a senior.

    He caught 155 passes, a single-season college football record. His 1,770 yards and 19 touchdowns capped off one of the best single seasons college football has ever seen.

21. Davone Bess, Hawaii (2005-2007)

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    Davone Bess had three monster seasons at Hawaii, going over 1,100 yards and 88 receptions during each season.

    He had 89 receptions for 1,124 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman and followed that up with 1,220 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore.

    During his junior season, Bess caught 108 passes for 1,266 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    His career numbers of 3,610 yards and 41 touchdowns are hard to top during a three-year span.

20. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-2011)

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    Justin Blackmon just finished off two monumental seasons at Oklahoma State, and if he had stayed around for one more season, he would likely be in the top five all-time.

    He caught 111 passes for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns as a sophomore and followed that up this past season with 121 catches for 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns.

    For his career, he finished with 3,564 yards and 41 touchdowns while earning All-America honors in 2010 and 2011.

    Blackmon also finished fifth in the Heisman race in 2010 as a sophomore.

19. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame (2008-2011)

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    Michael Floyd was a model of consistency during his four seasons at Notre Dame.

    He was over 700 yards each season and over 1,000 during his final two years. He had 12 touchdowns and 1,025 yards as a junior, but his best season came last year as a senior.

    Floyd caught 100 passes for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns.

    He finished his career with 3,686 yards and 37 touchdowns on 271 receptions.

18. Aaron Turner, Pacific (1989-1992)

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    Aaron Turner is a relative unknown, but during his four seasons at Pacific, he caught 266 balls for 4,345 yards and 43 touchdowns.

    That ranks him in the top 10 of all time.

    His best season came as a junior in 1991 when he had 1,604 yards.

    While he did play at Pacific, what Turner did is still notable.

    He scored a touchdown and went over 100 yards in a record 11 straight games in 1991.

17. Braylon Edwards, Michigan (2001-2004)

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    After only three catches and 38 yards as a freshman, Braylon Edwards had over 1,000 yards in each of his final three seasons, while improving on his numbers every year.

    He was big time his senior year, finishing 10th in the Heisman race and being named an All-American.

    That season, Edwards caught 97 passes for 1,330 yards and 15 touchdowns.

    He had 39 touchdowns and over 3,500 yards during his final three seasons at Michigan.

16. Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh (2002-2003)

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    Larry Fitzgerald was only at Pittsburgh for two seasons, but what a two years it was.

    As a freshman he caught 69 passes for 1,005 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    He followed that up with one of the best years a wide receiver has ever had during his sophomore season.

    Fitzgerald caught 92 passes for 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns. These stats allowed Fitzgerald to finish runner-up in the Heisman race and an All-American in 2003. 

    With four seasons, Fitzgerald would certainly have cracked the top five.

15. Anthony Carter, Michigan (1979-1982)

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    Anthony Carter was the first of the real big play receivers to grace college football.

    Carter had three really solid seasons at Michigan—all with over 750 yards—and also served as an excellent punt returner as well. 

    He finished with 2,681 receiving yards and 33 touchdowns.

    Carter was 10th in the Heisman race in 1980, seventh in 1981 and fourth in 1982, while earning All-America honors in 1981 and 1982.

14. Alex Van Dyke, Nevada (1994-1995)

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    Alex Van Dyke had two huge seasons at Nevada in the mid 90s and is still the all-time leader in receiving yards per game for a college career, at just over 140 a night.

    He had 3,100 yards in just two seasons and also caught 26 touchdowns.

    During his final season, Van Dyke had 129 receptions for 1,854 yards and 16 touchdowns, which still ranks as one of the best single seasons in college football history.

13. Mike Hass, Oregon State (2003-2005)

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    Some people have probably never even heard of Mike Hass, but the former Oregon State receiver is one of the greatest to ever take the field. 

    He played three seasons at Oregon State and was over 1,000 yards each year.

    Haas had 3,924 yards and 20 touchdowns in three years, capping it off with 1,532 yards and 90 catches as a senior.

    Had he played four years, he would have easily finished as the all-time leading receiver in college football history.

12. Desmond Howard, Michigan (1989-1991)

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    Desmond Howard was one of the most explosive players in college football history.

    His numbers were not eye-popping, but he did come up with some big plays, not only on offense, but on special teams as well.

    Howard won the Heisman Trophy in 1991, making him one of only a handful of receivers to ever win the award.

    He finished 1991 with 61 catches for 950 yards and 19 touchdowns receiving, not to mention what he did on special teams.

11. Bob Hayes, Florida A&M (1962-1964)

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    Bob Hayes was a wide receiver before there really were any. He had athleticism and his world class speed certainly did not hurt.

    Hayes was the fastest man in the world for some time, after winning gold in the 100 meter and 4x100 meter at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

    As a receiver, Hayes scored a team high 11 touchdowns as a junior.

    He was also a dominant kick returner, averaging 34.3 yards as a freshman.

    Hayes was perhaps the fastest player ever to play college football, and had he played in a different time, his numbers would have been much better.

10. Tim Brown, Notre Dame (1984-1987)

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    Tim Brown had a similar career to Desmond Howard, culminating in a Heisman Trophy in 1991.

    He only caught 39 passes during his senior season, but averaged nearly 22 yards a catch and finished with 846 yards along with three touchdowns. 

    What put Brown over the top was on special teams. He was huge on punt returns, taking three to the house during his senior season at Notre Dame.

9. Jerry Rice, Missisippi Valley State (1981-1984)

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    Had Jerry Rice played against bigger competition and put up these numbers, he may be No. 1.

    However, the stats he put up at Mississippi Valley State cannot be ignored.

    He had 301 receptions for 4,693 yards and 50 touchdowns during his four-year career, capping everything off with a senior season that featured 1,682 yards and 27 touchdowns on 103 catches.

    Add in a junior season with 1,450 yards and 14 touchdowns on 102 catches and it was quite a collegiate career for Rice.

8. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-2008)

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    Michael Crabtree had a freshman season that may never again be duplicated.

    He caught 134 passes for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns, earning him All-America honors that year.

    As a sophomore, Crabtree finished fifth in the Heisman voting, and was once again an All-American after having 97 catches for 1,165 yards 19 touchdowns.

    His 41 touchdowns in two seasons are monumental stats for any level.

7. Trevor Insley, Nevada (1996-1999)

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    Trevor Insley is the all-time collegiate leader in receiving yards with 5,005 and for yards in a single season with 2,060 during his senior year.

    Insley also holds the record for most 200-yard games with six and most 100-yard receiving games with 26.

    He is ranked in the top-five all time with 298 receptions and during his senior season averaged over 187 yards receiving a game, also an NCAA record for a single season.

6. Jarett Dillard, Rice (2005-2008)

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    Former Rice standout Jarett Dillard is the NCAA all-time leader for receiving touchdowns with 60.

    He had two seasons during his college career with 20 or more and also finished with 4,138 yards, ranking him in the top 15 ever.

    As a sophomore Dillard caught 21 touchdowns on 91 receptions and 1,247 yards.

    During his senior season, he finished with 20 touchdowns on 87 receptions for 1,310 yards.

5. Troy Edwards, Louisiana Tech (1996-1998)

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    Troy Edwards was an All-American in 1998 at Louisiana Tech after finishing with 140 receptions, 1,996 yards and 27 touchdowns.

    Statistically speaking, this is the best season in college football history.

    During his three-year career, Edwards caught 280 passes for 4,352 yards and 50 touchdowns, ranking him second all-time behind Dillard in touchdown receptions.

    Edwards also did it on special teams with punt returns.

4. Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State (2000-2003)

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    Rashaun Woods went over 1,000 yards in each of his final three seasons and finished his career in the top 10 all-time in touchdowns with 42.

    He also ranks in the top five in career yards with 4,414.

    His best year came as a junior when he caught 107 passes for 1,695 yards and 17 touchdowns.

    He also had 15 touchdowns and 1,367 yards during his senior season.

3. Randy Moss, Marshall (1996-1997)

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    It is unquestionable that Randy Moss is the most talented wide receiver in college and possibly NFL history.

    After short stints at Notre Dame and Florida State, Moss ended up at Marshall and had two huge years.

    His first season featured 55 receptions for 1,073 yards and 19 touchdowns.

    The very next year, Moss caught 90 passes for 1,647 yards and 25 touchdowns, completing one of the best single seasons in college football history.

    He was fourth in the Heisman voting during that season, not to mention an All-American.

2. Howard Twilley, Tulsa (1963-1965)

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    Howard Twilley was one of the first true wide receivers in college football.

    He was part of a Tulsa run-and-gun offense that passed before it was popular.

    Twilley finished runner-up in the 1965 Heisman race after finishing the season with 1,179 yards and an astonishing 134 receptions with 16 touchdowns.

    That number was unheard of nearly 50 years ago.

    Twilley also had 1,178 yards and 95 receptions the year before.

1. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma (2008-2011)

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    Ryan Broyles became the NCAA all-time leader in receptions last season, passing Taylor Stubblefield.

    For his career, he finished with 439 receptions, 4,586 yards and 45 touchdowns.

    Had his senior season not been cut nearly in half due to a torn ACL, his numbers would be even greater. He came up only 420 yards short of the all-time receiving record and 15 touchdowns shy of the touchdown record.

    Still, though during his final three years, Broyles went over 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns each season.

    As a junior, he caught 131 passes for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns.

    He did have the opportunity to play with some talented quarterbacks, but either way, Broyles is the best wide receiver college football has ever seen.

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