Jace Amaro: Best WR in the Big 12 Even Though He's Classified as a TE?

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterOctober 11, 2013

Sep 12, 2013; Lubbock, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders wide receiver Jace Amaro (22) rushes after a catch against the TCU Horned Frogs in the first quarter at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in a while, the Big 12 is without a nationally recognized wide receiver. 

No Tavon Austin, no Justin Blackmon or Dez Bryant. 

Through the first six weeks, only one wide receiver out of the Big 12—Baylor's Antwan Goodley—ranks in the Top 20 nationally (15th) in receiving yards (540). However, keep in mind that Baylor's offensive starters have yet to play an entire game because they're blowing out opposing defenses. 

Still, the last time the Big 12 didn't have a wide receiver finish in the Top 20 in that category? 2005. As it so happens, that was also the last time the Big 12 failed to have at least two receivers finish in the Top 10 in receiving yards. 

For love of the Air Raid, what is going on here?

For one, a lot of Big 12 teams are either breaking in new quarterbacks or still trying to get a starter established. On top of that, defenses are generally improved across the conference. And, like the turnover at the quarterback spot, there are a lot of younger faces at receiver. 

Stedman Bailey, Kenny Stills, Terrance Williams, Austin? They're all gone to the NFL. Guys like Josh Stewart of Oklahoma State and Quenton Bundrage of Iowa State are the next breakout stars of this conference. 

In the meantime, the best wide receiver in the Big 12 technically isn't a wide receiver at all. He's tight end Jace Amaro. 

Amaro's receiving numbers aren't the best in the Big 12, and he only has one touchdown, but he's caught at least eight passes for no fewer than 86 yards each of the past four games. Had he not been suspended for the first half of the season opener against SMU for throwing a punch during last year's Meineke Car Care Bowl, he probably could have extended that streak to five games. 

Last year, Amaro was one of the most reliable receiving options for the Red Raiders before missing the second half of the season with an injury. 

Oct 13, 2012; Lubbock, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders tight end Jace Amaro (22) is tackled by West Virginia Mountineers safety Darwin Cook (25) in the second half at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

He is the consummate safety net for quarterback Baker Mayfield. At 6'5" and 260 pounds, Amaro has prototypical size for the tight end position. Except Texas Tech rarely uses him in a prototypical way. 

Amaro is almost always standing up at the snap and Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury utilizes him like another wide receiver in both the screen game and the vertical passing game. 

"They call him a tight end, but he looks like a big wide receiver to me," Kansas coach Charlie Weis said Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference. "Ninety percent of the time, he's standing up. He is a big man that runs well and has very good ball skills."

Amaro had nine catches for 96 yards against the Jayhawks.  

"I made sure to seek him out after the game," Weis continued. "I was impressed with him on tape and equally impressed when we played him." 

There is no wide receiver in the Big 12 who is a bigger matchup nightmare than Amaro. His size makes him too big for defensive backs to try to handle one-on-one and he's a good receiver.

Iowa State is going to have its hands full with Amaro this Saturday. Minimizing his effectiveness or otherwise taking him out of the game plan is ISU's best chance at pulling an upset in Lubbock. 

How Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads plans on doing that will be interesting to see. About the only thing anyone knows for sure is that it won't be easy. 


Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval