Determining the nation’s best receiving corps is more difficult than one would think. There is no standout group among the nation’s teams at the moment. I narrowed the list down to Alabama, Arkansas, Boise State, Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
Here’s a breakdown of each team’s receiving group in alphabetical order followed by an award section of sorts, and then the winner. Let the debate begin...
Alabama boasts perhaps the nation’s most physically-gifted receiver in wide receiver Julio Jones, who is likely to a be a top-15 pick in April's NFL draft. Wideout Darius Hanks and tight end Preston Dial are on pace to far surpass their previous season totals.
Wide receiver Marquis Maze had 31 catches for 523 yards last season. Running back Trent Richardson already has ten catches this season and is being used extensively in the screen and short passing game.
Outside of SEC country and perhaps even the state of Arkansas, not much is known about the group of pass-catchers Ryan Mallett throws too. Wide receiver Joe Adams is on track for 57 receptions, 1,167 yards and six touchdowns. 6-foot-3-inch, 217-pound Greg Childs already has 22 catches for 298 yards and three touchdowns. He caught 12 balls in one game a few weeks back against Louisiana-Monroe.
Mallett’s security blanket is tight end D.J. Williams. Essentially a human cinder block, Williams has caught at least three balls in every game this season and is on pace to surpass the half-century mark in catches and pass 700 yards receiving.
The Broncos of Boise State stand out because of their top two receivers: Titus Young and Austin Pettis, who are lightning and thunder of sorts.
In 2009, Young, who has reportedly run a 4.40 40-yard dash, had 79 catches for 1,041 yards and ten touchdowns. Right now, the 6-foot-3-inch, 200-pound Pettis is on pace for 52 catches, 892 yards and 16 scores.
Even after losing standout Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati still possesses one of the nation’s best receiving groups. After posting 61 catches, 888 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, Armon Binns is on pace to put up similar numbers this season.
D.J. Woods could push for All-American status, despite making two bone-headed plays last weekend against Oklahoma. If Woods fulfills his projected numbers of 72 receptions, 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns he will gain serious accolades.
Although he’s been limited by an ankle injury this season, tight end Ben Guidugli is likely the best receiving tight end in the Big East when healthy. Wideout Marcus Barnett, who had 62 catches for 862 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2007, is back in the starting lineup after the injury the Vidal Hazelton, who transferred in from USC and had 50 catches for the Trojans in 2007.
Notre Dame might have the top potential pro wide receiver in Michael Floyd and top potential pro tight end in Kyle Rudolph.
After having his 2009 season cut short due to a broken collarbone, Floyd has started fast out of the gates in 2010, recording 24 catches for 339 yards and two touchdowns. Rudolph is on pace to double each of his 2009 totals of 33 receptions for 364 yards and three scores.
A pleasant surprise for the Irish has been wide receiver Theo Riddick. Riddick is on track for 63 catches, 753 yards and six touchdowns after totaling six receptions for 43 yards and no scores last season.
Ohio State’s receiving group hasn’t really had a chance to shine in recent years because of the conservative nature of the offense. So far in 2010, the Buckeyes have undergone an offensive revolution. Terrelle Pryor is averaging nearly 27 passing attempts a game in addition to already throwing for 939 yards, almost half of his 2009 total.
Wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher is on pace to catch 60 balls and gain 948 yards along with 15 touchdown catches. DeVier Posey had over 800 yards receiving last year and eight touchdown receptions last year, and even threw a touchdown pass.
After last year’s tight end, Jake Ballard, caught 14 balls the whole season, Jake Stoneburner is on pace to nearly double that total if he can stay healthy. Furthermore, running back Brandon Saine had 17 receptions last season. He’s on pace to catch 24 passes this season, a sign OSU is trying to make the most of “Zoom” pass-catching skills.
Big-play ability: Tie between Boise State and Notre Dame. Pettis & Young along with Floyd & Rudolph are not only the clear focal points of their team's offenses, but make the most plays and can kill you after the catch.
Best numbers by season's end: Arkansas in a landslide. Mallett's on pace to throw for over 4,300 yards. Broderick Green, the Razorback running back, only as 134 yards on the season. The Arkansas receiving group will put up big time numbers.
Deepest Group: Despite Hazelton's injury, UC still has the most depth. They have three legitimate receivers along with the top conference's top tight end. In addition, Butch Jones is trying to get the team's running backs involved as well.
Versatility: Ohio State is the easy choice here. Posey is the No. 1 with great breakaway speed and big-play ability. Sanzenbacher is the sure-haned slot man who's a great third down target. Stoneburner eats up the middle of the field. Saine and Jordan Hall are deadly out of the backfield.
Less than creative, yes. I tried to be objective as possible. But of the teams considered, I've pretty much seen every game played by every team.
However, there's no right answer here. Thoughts?