College Football Rankings 2011: Top 8 Quarterback to Receiver Hook-Ups
One of the most exciting moments in all of college football is when a star quarterback hooks up with his elite counterpart at wide receiver for a big gain.
Behind these types of plays is a huge arm, incredible athleticism, perfect communication, and a whole lot of preparation.
Along with immense talent, the intangibles that develop between a gunslinger and his prime target separate them from the rest of college football. Out of each passing off-season springs forth a new group of these tandems to compete with those that have already established themselves.
Now we look at eight quarterback-to-receiver hook-ups that will headline the 2011 season.
Sources: Bleacher Report, ESPN.com
8. Kirk Cousins to BJ Cunningham, Michigan State
A rising prospect at receiver, senior BJ Cunningham is beginning to put himself on the map as a NFL prospect. And one reason he's been able to do so is his senior quarterback Kirk Cousins.
With a relatively low 50 receptions for 611 yards and nine touchdowns, Cunningham may not seem to be a big difference maker.
But a quick look at Cousins' stats would prove otherwise; with 2825 yards and 20 touchdowns, Cunningham garnered over one fifth of Cousins' passing yards and nearly a half of his touchdown passes.
Even though the Spartans' offensive staple is their running game, the Cousins-to-Cunningham hook-up could be one frequently seen in 2011, and could give Big Ten defenses fits.
7. Ryan Tannehill to Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M
Because of the midseason switch at quarterback, the rapport between Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill and receiver Jeff Fuller was not as strong as some of the others on this list last season.
However, because they got that experience together, they'll be even better next season.
Fuller proved his worth by grabbing 72 passes for 1066 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Tannehill performed admirably in the final seven games of the season, throwing for 1638 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions with a 65 percent completion rate.
Not coincidentally, the Aggies won six of their last seven behind the play of Tannehill, and while Fuller had a disappointing last few games, he looks to come back strong as a senior.
The two should develop one of the most dangerous connections in the nation.
6. Steven Garcia/Connor Shaw to Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
This is a win-win situation for South Carolina fans.
If Stephen Garcia takes advantage of his final chance at being an effective quarterback, he and elite receiver Alshon Jeffery will create a formidable connection. If he doesn't, gifted back-up Connor Shaw will have the opportunity to beat out Garcia, in which case Jeffery would still have a quality quarterback throwing to him.
Either way, Alshon Jeffery will be one of the top receivers in the country.
His impressive sophomore season, in which he hauled in 88 catches for 1517 yards and 9 touchdowns, will likely be followed by a similarly successful 2011 campaign.
Widely considered one of the top-three wide-outs of 2011, Jeffery will make South Carolina's quarterback look even better than he is no matter if it's Garcia or Shaw.
5. Nick Foles to Juron Criner, Arizona
Operating out of a spread offense, the initial and primary thing noticed between Nick Foles and Juron Criner is the stat-line.
Criner received 82 of Foles' 286 completions, 1233 of his 3191 yards, and 11 of his 20 touchdown passes.
As impressive as those numbers are, it's even more impressive that both of these players are possible first or second-round draft picks in 2012.
If they continue to connect on such a regular basis in 2011, that's not difficult to believe.
4. Matt Barkley to Robert Woods, USC
Collectively the youngest tandem on this list by far, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods may lack age and experience, but they certainly don't lack talent.
On the contrary, they could be the tandem with the most pure talent on this list.
With 65 receptions for 792 yards and six touchdowns as a mere freshman, Woods was a break-out talent that turned out to be the top target for Barkley. And with 2791 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, the sophomore didn't fail to impress either.
Because they both figure to improve considerably, it's very realistic to expect them to be one of the nation's top combinations both statistically and otherwise.
3. Andrew Luck to Chris Owusu, Stanford
The consensus top preseason quarterback for 2011, Andrew Luck won't have any shortage of talented players to throw to. At the top of that list is senior Chris Owusu.
A superior athlete, Owusu has the speed and size to excel at receiver in the NFL, but with his 2011 season cut short by injury, he has yet to prove he can consistently produce.
With that being said, if Owusu can stay healthy, he definitely has the ability to do so.
It helps that he has Luck, who passed for 3338 yards and 32 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, throwing him the ball.
Barring another injury-ridden season, Luck-to-Owusu should become an oft-repeated phrase in college football.
2. Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Arguably the most statistically dominant quarterback-to-receiver combination in 2011, Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon were able to connect frequently for huge gains even against some of the nation's best secondaries (see Nebraska).
In their trademark spread offense, Blackmon racked up an amazing 111 catches for 1782 yards and 20 touchdowns while Weeden gunned for 4277 yards, 34 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on a 67 percent completion rate.
Those kind of numbers deserve high praise any day, but the most remarkable thing is Weeden and Blackmon could surpass those numbers in 2011.
Weeden may be too old to make an impact in the NFL, but expect him to help Blackmon dominate on his way to a high first-round pick.
1. Landry Jones to Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
Two products of yet another spread offense, Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles top this list because they set themselves apart from the rest.
The reason I say that is because, despite an incredible amount of talent OU possesses at receiver, Jones and Broyles still find a way to connect more often than almost anybody else in the nation.
Of Jones' 405 completions in 2010, Broyles had an incredible 131 of them. He produced 1622 yards and 14 touchdowns out of those receptions despite being just 5'11", 180 pounds.
With 4718 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2010, Jones is regarded as an elite prospect along with Broyles. And with the success former OU quarterback Sam Bradford has had thus far, expect NFL teams to be willing to take a chance on Jones early in the draft.
As for Broyles—well, the numbers speak for themselves.
Expect Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles to be the top quarterback/wide receiver combo in all of college football in 2011.