SEC Football Post-Spring Top Wide Receiver Rankings
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The SEC is a run-first conference, but that doesn't mean that it's lacking in the wide receiver department.
Four receivers who had 900 or more receiving yards last season will return to the conference this year, headlined by Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews and Texas A&M's Mike Evans.
But just because established stars are returning, don't count out the possibility of unheralded players taking the next step and becoming superstars.
How do the SEC's top receivers stack up in 2013?
*Only the No. 1 wide receiver for each team is ranked.
14. Jaylon Denson, Auburn
Auburn WR Jaylon Denson
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
With Emory Blake gone, Auburn's wide receiving corps is missing its lone downfield threat.
Junior Jaylon Denson could be that threat, but he has yet to show it during the fall. The 6'3", 216-pounder was one of three wide receivers listed at No. 1 exiting spring practice, but he only has one catch for 12 yards during his first two seasons on the Plains.
Despite the lack of production, first-year head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee have been pleased with his development.
"Right now, if you said who do I know that I can count on, I know I can count on him," Lashlee told AL.com.
With guys like Trovon Reed, Sammie Coates, Quan Bray and Ricardo Louis on the roster, Auburn could develop quite a dangerous passing attack in 2013. But we have to see it before we believe it.
13. Vincent Dallas, Tennessee
Tennessee WR Vincent Dallas
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Without Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Zach Rogers, first-year Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is faced with quite a challenge in 2013.
Who's going to catch the ball?
Vincent Dallas, Alton Howard and Jacob Carter are expected to be contributors, so for the sake of this ranking, we are going to go with Dallas as the Vols' top receiver.
He caught nine passes for 149 yards and a touchdown a year ago as a sophomore, and he turned heads this spring. He had two catches for 53 yards in the spring game, which impressed quarterback Justin Worley.
"We've been stressing playmakers on the outside, at running back and at tight end," Worley said of Dallas and wide receiver Cody Blanc. "Having some of those guys make some big plays and show a flash and some signs of what could be, it was good to see."
12. Demarco Robinson, Kentucky
Kentucky WR Demarco Robinson
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Kentucky's offense is going to look drastically different in 2013 with offensive coordinator Neal Brown and his air-raid scheme now in the Bluegrass State, and wide receiver Demarco Robinson could stand to benefit most from the change.
Robinson caught 28 passes for 297 yards last season in an offense that struggled with injuries and finding its identity.
He shined in the spring game, though, catching six passes for 93 yards and a touchdown, solidifying his spot as one of the top wide receivers for first-year head coach Mark Stoops.
Brown's offense is designed to spread the ball around and get it into the hands of playmakers in space, so expect video-game numbers from the 5'10", 159-pounder in 2013.
11. Robert Johnson, Mississippi State
Mississippi State WR Robert Johnson
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Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen is working to replace his top three wide receivers from a year ago, and junior Robert Johnson could be the answer to one of his biggest offseason questions.
Johnson caught 17 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns, and he entered this spring atop the Bulldog depth chart along with junior Jameon Lewis and sophomore Joe Morrow.
Johnson only caught two passes for 20 yards in the spring game, but don't be fooled by his lack of production.
The 6'1", 220-pounder has the size to be a solid possession receiver and is fast enough to burn opposing defenses. He's experienced enough to know just what Mullen wants out of his receivers in this offense, and he could shine in 2013.
Also keep an eye out for junior college transfer Jeremy Chappelle. He could be the biggest weapon in the arsenal this season in Starkville.
10. Demetrius Wilson, Arkansas
Arkansas WR Demetrius Wilson
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With Mekale McKay, Julian Horton and Javontee Herndon on the roster, Arkansas' wide receiving corps entered spring as one of the most underrated units in the country.
But a funny thing happened during spring practice under first-year head coach Bret Bielema—Demetrius Wilson emerged as the potential star.
The 6'3", 181-pound senior only caught nine passes for 117 yards and a touchdown last season, but beat out McKay—Arkansas' leading returning receiver—for one of the top three spots on the depth chart, impressing the new staff in the process. As Bielema told ESPN.com:
Everything he does is 100 miles an hour. He's very engaged, he's very hard on himself. If he makes a mistake or does something that he knows is wrong, he's very critical, but is quick to rebound and make a great play after it.
If you're looking for a potential breakout star in the SEC, look no further than Wilson.
9. Trey Burton, Florida
Florida WR Trey Burton
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Trey Burton has been a do-everything-type player for the Florida Gators during his three-year career, lining up at quarterback, running back and tight end.
He settled in this spring as the starting flanker for head coach Will Muschamp, but will still do many of the things that have made him dangerous.
In three seasons in Gainesville, Burton has caught 69 passes for 531 yards and three touchdowns. The 6'2", 224-pounder is lightning-quick in space but certainly durable enough to be a weapon over the middle and in various roles catching screens both out of the slot and the backfield.
Behind Burton, Quinton Dunbar, Andre Debose, Demarcus Robinson, Soloman Patton and perhaps even starting cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy could emerge as legitimate threats in the passing game.
8. Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
Missouri WR Dorial Green-Beckham
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After all of the preseason hype coming into the 2012 season, Dorial Green-Beckham's freshman campaign in Columbia can't be viewed as anything other than a major disappointment.
That's going to change, though.
Green-Beckham only caught 28 passes for 395 yards and five touchdowns last season, but he came on strong late. He had 267 yards and four of those touchdowns during Missouri's final five games and was the talk of the town this spring.
“I do think he’s a lot different player now,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this spring. “You saw him out there Saturday. He changes games, and he’s playing like that now. So it’s really exciting.”
The 6'6", 220-pounder has "superstar" written all over him, and if the Tiger offense can find its identity, that could translate to a big season for the former hot-shot recruit.
7. Bruce Ellington, South Carolina
South Carolina WR Bruce Ellington
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It seems like Ace Sanders' departure to the NFL has relegated South Carolina's passing attack to "question mark" status this offseason.
Don't fall into that trap.
Bruce Ellington—the Gamecocks' leading receiver from a year ago—is back from the basketball team and ready to emerge as the next superstar wide receiver in Columbia. The 5'9", 197-pounder caught 40 passes for 600 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago, including 100-yard performances versus Tennessee and Arkansas.
He's a reliable deep threat for either Connor Shaw or Dylan Thompson, but also quick enough to be dangerous underneath.
Damiere Byrd and Shaq Roland will also step up and become bigger factors for head coach Steve Spurrier in 2013.
6. Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
LSU WR Odell Beckham, Jr.
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If you're looking for someone who could climb into that 900-yard club in 2013, look no further than LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
The junior caught 43 passes for 713 yards and two touchdowns and could stand to benefit most from the presence of first-year Tiger offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. At 6'0", 187 pounds, Beckham has big-play ability and has been LSU's most reliable wide receiving target over the last two seasons. He finished off a solid spring with a six-catch, 202-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Tigers' spring game.
That could translate to a big year in 2013.
Don't be fooled by the notion that LSU is in rebuilding mode. With so much personnel continuity this season and an upgrade at offensive coordinator, the offense could be one of the best in the SEC.
Beckham Jr., leads a talented group of Tiger receivers that includes Kadron Boone and Jarvis Landry; both of whom would probably be ranked if we were including more than one player per team.
5. Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia
Georgia WR Malcolm Mitchell
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Malcolm Mitchell finished last season as Georgia's second-leading wide receiver, catching 40 passes for 572 yards and four touchdowns—despite playing the first four games primarily as a defensive back.
Now that he's back with the offense full time, he's looking to step into the rather large shadow former Bulldog Tavarres King left behind.
He's fully capable.
Mitchell has 1,237 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in his first two seasons between the hedges, and he will benefit from essentially the entire Georgia offense returning in 2013.
Behind Mitchell, Michael Bennett and junior college transfer Jonathon Rumph could become household names this season as well.
4. Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss
Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief
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That was the cry emanating from the stands from Ole Miss fans as the 2012 season came to a close, and for good reason. The 6'3", 213-pound rising junior caught 66 passes for 979 yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago, with 439 of those yards coming in the Rebels' final four games.
He has the size to be a solid possession wide receiver, the speed to be a home run hitter and the scheme that gets him in position to be successful.
With a solid foundation on offense returning and the presence of incoming freshman Laquon Treadwell and Ja-Mes Logan joining him in the receiving corps, Moncrief should find opportunities to make an impact early and often.
3. Amari Cooper, Alabama
Alabama WR Amari Cooper
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Alabama typically relies on the ground game and a stifling defense, but that didn't stop Amari Cooper from having a dazzling freshman campaign at the Capstone.
The 6'1", 199-pounder from Miami burst onto the scene in 2012, catching 58 passes for 999 yards and 11 touchdowns—including the game-winning score in Alabama's wild 32-28 win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
Over his final five games of the 2012 campaign, Cooper topped the 100-yard mark four times and scored six touchdowns, setting the stage for a stellar sophomore campaign.
He's the unquestioned leader of a talented Alabama wide receiving corps that could turn heads in 2013. Ground and pound? Alabama may not need it all that much this season.
2. Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Texas A&M WR Mike Evans
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For a freshman who caught 82 passes for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns, Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans flies very much under the radar.
That's a shame, because had it not been for quarterback Johnny Manziel doing "Johnny Manziel things" last season, we all would probably be talking about the 6'5", 225-pound Evans..
He's a massive target over the middle and faster than opposing defenses give him credit for, creating seemingly limitless possibilities for Manziel, head coach Kevin Sumlin and the Aggie offense.
And he's going to have plenty of company in College Station this season. He may be the unquestioned leader in the wide receiving corps, but early enrollee JaQuay Williams could be a superstar and hot-shot recruit Ricky Seals-Jones will arrive later this summer.
1. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews
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Jordan Matthews passed on a chance to jump to the NFL to come back to Nashville and help the Vanderbilt football program take the next step and be a legitimate contender in the SEC East.
He led all SEC receivers last season with 94 catches and finished second behind former Arkansas wide receiver Cobi Hamilton with 1,323 yards. The 6'3", 197-pounder has 150 catches for 2,282 yards and 17 touchdowns in his first three seasons in Nashville.
Not bad, to say the least.
Coupled with junior Chris Boyd, the Commodores could boast one of the SEC's most dynamic passing attacks in 2013, provided quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels can be the dual threat he was when he played for Wyoming.
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