Big Ten Football 2011: Ranking the Top 10 Wide Receivers

Kraig LundbergAnalyst IIIJuly 10, 2011

Big Ten Football 2011: Ranking the Top 10 Wide Receivers

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    The B1G conference looks to have one of the nation's deepest and most talented crops of wide receivers for the 2011 season, and here we rank the best of them from No. 10 to No. 1.

    Players like Mark Dell of Michigan State, Dane Sanzenbacher of Ohio State, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos of Iowa and Tandon Doss of Indiana led the charge against B1G secondaries in 2010.

    With the loss of these four players and the inclusion of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, it's time to take a look at a newly shuffled lineup of the conference's best and where each falls in the preseason ranks.

    Players were ranked based on last season's production, level of talent surrounding them, and the offensive system they play in.

    So which receivers will give B1G defensive coordinators the biggest headaches in 2011? You're about to find out.

    Ding! Turn the page...

    Sources: ESPN.com, Rivals.com

Sleepers

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    Antavian Edison, Jr, Purdue-Had 32 catches for 316 yards and four touchdowns in a stagnant Purdue passing game; quarterback play should be better and Edison becomes the No. 1 wideout

    Jamal Turner, Fr, Nebraska-Dominated Nebraska's spring game as a true freshman with four catches for 93 yards including a 49 yard touchdown; also had 111 total return yards on two attempts

    Junior Hemingway, Sr, Michigan-Recorded 32 receptions for 593 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games; could have a bigger part in the offense with Darryl Stonum's suspension

    Keshawn Martin, Sr, Michigan State-Has been inconsistent throughout his career, but could break out as the Spartans' No. 2 receiver; 32 catches for 394 yards and a touchdown last season 

    Justin Brown, Jr, Penn State-Had 33 catches for 452 yards and a touchdown as a sophomore in Penn State's inconsistent offense; should be No. 2 option across from Derek Moye

    Jared Abbrederis, So, Wisconsin-Had 20 catches for 289 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman; a legitimate breakout candidate with the addition of quarterback Russell Wilson

Honorable Mention: Nick Toon, Sr, Wisconsin and Darryl Stonum, Sr, Michigan

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    Nick Toon was Wisconsin's second-leading receiver in 2010 behind tight end Lance Kendricks, who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams.

    Toon grabbed 32 receptions for 459 yards and three touchdowns in an offense that heavily favors the run. With the addition of do-it-all quarterback Russell Wilson to the team, Toon has a great chance to considerably improve on his junior numbers.

    The Badgers ground game will be strong regardless, but if Wilson and Toon can build a good rapport, the passing game could open the offense up even more and the senior wideout could have a career season.

    Darryl Stonum is a very talented player who gets bumped down because of legal trouble.  He was Michigan's second-best receiver in 2010, but a DUI arrest and subsequent suspension may cause him to miss playing time in 2011.

    New coach Brady Hoke is likely trying to establish strict discipline as early as possible, and with players like Junior Hemingway and Roy Roundtree ready to pick up any slack, the Wolverines may decide they can afford to be without Stonum for awhile. 

    Still, his 49 catches for 633 yards and four touchdowns are automatically enough to earn him honorable mention.

10. DeVier Posey, Sr, Ohio State

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    A former 5-star recruit, DeVier Posey has had two 800+ yard seasons with the Buckeyes, scoring 15 total touchdowns in those seasons. However, he still has yet to live up to his potential.

    As talented as Posey is, he unfortunately may never reach his ceiling at Ohio State.

    The senior-to-be will miss the first five games of the season after being suspended as a result of the recent scandal that cost coach Jim Tressel his job.  On top of that, star quarterback Terrelle Pryor decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL's 2011 supplemental draft.

    With the departure of Dane Sanzenbacher, Posey will be Ohio State's top receiving threat. But one way or another he'll have to produce with an unproven and inexperienced quarterback, who in all likelihood will be freshman Braxton Miller.

    When Posey returns, the Buckeyes will travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers, who boast one of the nation's best cornerbacks in Alfonzo Dennard.

    If Posey can hold his own against Dennard, he could shoot up in the rankings.

9. Brandon Kinnie, Sr, Nebraska

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    The Cornhuskers' Brandon Kinnie was a rare bright spot for a passing offense that was about as pathetic as they come in 2010.

    Aside from a terrible game against the Texas Longhorns (what Cornhusker didn't play horribly that day?), Kinnie was a consistent and reliable receiving option for whoever was under center. His 44 receptions led the team, and his 494 yards and five touchdowns were each second on the team.

    The former JUCO prospect flashed great tackle-breaking ability and decent speed to go along with good size and strength.

    Kinnie figures to have an increased role in the offense this year with senior Niles Paul gone to the NFL, and in all reality, the 113th-ranked passing game has a lot better chance of getting better than getting worse.

    Expect Kinnie to be a prime target in Nebraska's relatively unknown offense.  All of his numbers should increase considerably, barring injury or a major offensive letdown. 

8. Damarlo Belcher, Sr, Indiana

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    Damarlo Belcher was Indiana's leading receiver in 2011 despite Tandon Doss being the more heavily hyped Hoosier.

    Belcher grabbed 78 passes for 832 yards and four touchdowns in a pass-happy offense.  With Doss's departure, the 6'5", 215-pounder now stands alone as the team's top wideout.

    Now that quarterback Ben Chappell is gone, Belcher will have to establish a rhythm with a young quarterback.  While his stats may take a slight dip, he'll still be coach Kevin Wilson's prime offensive threat.

    The Hoosiers will depend on Belcher to come up big if they want to overachieve this season.

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7. Da'Jon McKnight, Sr, Minnesota

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    Da'Jon McKnight emerged as a star for Minnesota in 2010.

    The 6'3", 209-pounder was a big play waiting to happen all year, pulling in 48 catches for 750 yards (a 15.6 yard average) and 10 touchdowns.

    Proving he is no fluke, McKnight saved his best performance for the Penn State game. Despite the Nittany Lions fielding a strong defense, the Golden Gophers' receiver dominated with eight catches for 103 yards and three touchdowns. 

    Since MarQueis Gray moved from receiver to quarterback this spring, Minnesota's offense will likely emphasize the run a little more this season. But don't expect that to hinder McKnight's stats.

    If Gray and McKnight can get on the same page early, the two could form a dangerous connection. Expect McKnight to make life hard on opposing cornerbacks and safeties.

6. AJ Jenkins, Sr, Illinois

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    AJ Jenkins was overshadowed by senior Jarred Fayson in the 2010 preseason, but ended up outshining his counterpart.

    Jenkins hauled in 56 receptions for 746 yards and seven touchdowns last season despite playing in the nation's 111th ranked passing offense. His best game came against Minnesota, with 6 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown. He had several other notable games as well. 

    Now that Jenkins has emerged as a consistent target for young quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, their connections should only get more frequent as both continue to develop.  

    Expect Jenkins to produce even better numbers in 2011.

5. BJ Cunningham, Sr, Michigan State

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    The Spartans' BJ Cunningham had a great season for 11-2 Michigan State, posting 50 catches for 611 yards and nine touchdowns as the team's secondary receiver.

    With the departure of Mark Dell, the 6'2", 220 pounder takes over as the team's best receiver.

    Despite playing in a run based offense, Cunningham has shown great ability to produce. And with veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins returning, these two could have one of the nation's most dangerous hook-ups.

    Cunningham has good speed and uses his size and strength to his advantage against smaller defenders, making him a strong red-zone option.

    He should be a great overall No. 1 receiver, and expect all his numbers to jump up.

4. Roy Roundtree, Jr, Michigan

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    The Michigan Wolverines have disappointed the past two seasons after starting fast, but don't blame Roy Roundtree.

    The 6'0", 176 pound speedster was Denard Robinson's top receiver as a sophomore, breaking out for 76 catches for 935 yards and seven touchdowns. Robinson and Roundtree return with a new coach and apparent change in offensive philosophy, but this dangerous duo won't be reigned in by the staff.

    Roundtree dismantled the Bowling Green, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin secondaries in 2011, gaining well over 100 yards in each of those games. The highlight of the season was his nine-catch, 246-yard, two-touchdown performance in a triple-overtime win over the Fighting Illini.

    Expect Roundtree to produce even more highlight-reel performances in his junior season and take over as the B1G's best 2012 receiver after a mass-exodus of seniors. 

3. Marvin McNutt, Sr, Iowa

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    Iowa entered the 2010 season with Derrell Johnson-Koulianos as its top threat on the outside, but in some ways junior Marvin McNutt outshined him.

    Now that DJK has been kicked off the team as a result of a drug arrest, McNutt takes over as the team's unquestioned leader at receiver.

    McNutt recorded 53 receptions for 861 yards and eight touchdowns in 2010, establishing himself as a consistent threat and big target for quarterback Ricky Stanzi.  Stanzi is gone though, and McNutt will be a crucial piece in the development of incumbent James Vandenberg.

    If Vandenberg can develop as strong a rapport with McNutt as Stanzi was able to, expect the Hawkeyes' passing game to be dangerous.

    This should be the case, and barring something unforseen, McNutt's will improve on his numbers and will be regarded as one of the B1G's best wideouts.

2. Derek Moye, Sr, Penn State

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    Led by two young quarterbacks, the Penn State Nittany Lions had a mediocre and inconsistent passing game in 2010.  However, one of the few consistently good players was receiver Derek Moye.

    Moye put together a strong junior campaign, catching 53 passes for 885 yards and eight touchdowns.

    Penn State has a bright outlook for 2011, and one of the reasons is the likely development of Matt McGloin or Robert Bolden at quarterback. Whoever wins the job will have a very good receiver to throw to in Moye.

    His 6'5", 200 pound frame makes Moye a huge target for his quarterback and a mismatch for smaller cornerbacks.  This combination could make Penn State's best receiver a reliable weapon all year on his way to gaining first-team B1G honors.   

1. Jeremy Ebert, Sr, Northwestern

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    In 2010, Jeremy Ebert emerged as the Northwestern Wildcats' go-to receiver.

    With quarterback Dan Persa back in 2011, expect Ebert to finish the season as the B1G's best receiver.

    Ebert racked up 62 catches for 953 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior.  The 6'1", 185 pounder's big-play ability shone through week after week.

    Although Northwestern's defense left a lot to be desired, the Wildcats have reason for optimism this year. Many are picking the Wildcats as a dark horse B1G candidate, and the main reason is the Dan Persa-to-Jeremy Ebert connection.

    Awhile back I wrote an article highlighting the nation's best quarterback-to-receiver hook-ups and foolishly left Persa and Ebert off the list.

    Consider this my official apology to the Northwestern fan base.

    But don't think I'm putting Ebert at No. 1 for just that reason.  He has all the tools to be the B1G's best receiver in 2011.

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