Ranking the 12 Biggest Deep Threats in College Football for 2013

Michael Carroll@mjcarroll531Featured ColumnistMay 30, 2013

Ranking the 12 Biggest Deep Threats in College Football for 2013

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    Football teams rely on deep threats to get huge chunks of yardage on passing plays. Whether it’s third-and-long or teams want to put extra pressure on opposing defenses, these guys will oftentimes get the ball.

    I have ranked what I believe will be the 12 biggest deep threats in FBS in 2013. I considered yards per reception more important than any other statistic, but only “qualified” players made the list. What does “qualified” mean here? According to sports-reference.com/cfb, “qualified” players averaged at least 1.875 receptions per game. The receptions minimum allows for some kind of consistency, and it negates players, for example, that had five receptions for 100 yards (20.0 averages) but got 80 of them on a single touchdown.

    Feel free to debate or to add your deep threats in the comments below.

12. Jared Abbrederis (Wisconsin)

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    Jared Abbrederis should carry over his 2012 success to a Wisconsin program that will look a lot different in 2013.

    Bret Bielema and Montee Ball have moved on to Arkansas and the NFL’s Denver Broncos, respectively. Gary Andersen and a few running backs will have to replace them. Also, there is not a clear No. 1 quarterback for the Badgers yet.

    Abbrederis represents the constant on Wisconsin’s offense, so he should get a lot of balls thrown his way again. The rising senior went deep too, as Abbrederis placed 26th among qualified FBS players in yards per reception (17.1) in 2012.

    Abbrederis made the 2012 All-Big Ten First Team, and he could very well turn the trick again in 2013.

    B/R’s own David Fitzgerald II placed Abbrederis on his 2013 Preseason All-Big Ten Second Team.

11. L'Damian Washington (Missouri)

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    L’Damian Washington figures to be one of Missouri’s top three receivers in 2013, but he is more of a deep threat than Marcus Lucas or Dorial Green-Beckham.

    Washington placed 20th among qualified FBS players in yards per reception (17.7) in 2012. That is impressive for someone who moved from the Big 12 to the improved defenses of the SEC.

    After having read a story from Joe Walljasper of columbiatribune.com, I am rooting for Washington to remain among FBS’ biggest deep threats. Everyone has to overcome adversity in life, but Washington’s attitude in dealing with his adversity is more significant.

10. Kenny Bell (Nebraska)

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    Even for a program that likes to run the football as much as Nebraska, Kenny Bell had the third-most yards from scrimmage and touchdowns from scrimmage on the 2012 team.

    The Cornhuskers have finished in the Top 25 of the final AP poll every season since 2009, so there’s little reason for the offense to get Bell more opportunities in 2013. It seems Bell makes those opportunities count, though.

    Bell placed 22nd among qualified FBS players in yards per reception (17.3) in 2012. The rising senior also made the 2012 All-Big Ten Second Team.

    B/R’s own David Fitzgerald II placed Bell on his 2013 Preseason All-Big Ten First Team.

9. Titus Davis (Central Michigan)

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    In 2013, Titus Davis will be not only be one of the top returning deep threats in FBS, but also will be the top returning receiver from 2012 for Central Michigan.

    Davis placed sixth among qualified FBS players in yards per reception (20.0) in 2012. With Cody Wilson having moved on to the NFL’s Detroit Lions, Davis should be the No. 1 receiving target for the Chippewas.

    The rising junior made the 2012 All-MAC Second Team and the 2011 All-MAC Third Team, so will it be an All-MAC First Team selection in 2013?

    Phil Steele says yes, as he placed Davis on his 2013 Preseason All-MAC First Team.

8. Brandin Cooks (Oregon State)

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    Now that Markus Wheaton has moved on to the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, Brandin Cooks will take his spot as Oregon State’s No. 1 receiver in 2013.

    Even with Wheaton, Cooks developed into one of FBS’ biggest deep threats. Cooks placed 23rd among qualified FBS players in yards per reception (17.2) in 2012.

    The Beavers went from having head coach Mike Riley on the hot seat before 2012 to a Top 25 program after 2012. Cooks definitely played a big role in the turnaround.

    The rising junior will see the ball a lot this season, but who will throw it to him? Dave Miller of nationalfootballpost.com says neither Sean Mannion nor Cody Vaz has elevated himself into the No. 1 spot yet.

    B/R’s own Danny Flynn placed Cooks on his 2013 Preseason All-Pac-12 Second Team.

7. Tevin Reese (Baylor)

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    Tevin Reese finally has the chance to be Baylor’s No. 1 receiver.

    Despite being surrounded by current NFL receivers like Josh Gordon, Lanear Sampson, Terrance Williams and Kendall Wright, Reese hauled in 104 receptions for 1,834 yards and 16 touchdowns between 2011 and 2012.

    Even with those guys, Reese was a deep threat. Reese placed 16th among qualified FBS players in yards per reception (18.1) in 2012.

    David Ubben of ESPN.com thinks Reese will get over 1,000 receiving yards in 2013. With Reese now the Bears’ main receiving attraction, it’s possible.

    B/R’s own Danny Flynn placed Reese on his Preseason 2013 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention Team.

6. DeVante Parker (Louisville)

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    DeVante Parker introduced himself to the college football world when he caught Louisville’s third touchdown in the 2013 Sugar Bowl. It turns out Parker made many more big plays for Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals in 2012.

    Parker placed 15th among qualified FBS players in yards per reception (18.6) in 2012. The rising junior also finished first on the team in receiving yards and touchdown receptions, despite finishing fourth in receptions.

    Parker and Louisville are among the American Athletic Conference elite after winning the final season of Big East football and finishing 13th in the 2012 final AP poll. If Bridgewater wins the Heisman and is the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, then Parker will have produced at an all-conference level.

    Phil Steele placed Parker on his 2013 Preseason All-American Athletic Conference First Team.

5. Willis Wright (Florida International)

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    Florida International enters a new era in 2013, which brings many uncertainties to the program. Willis Wright should not be one of them.

    Wright, a rising senior, led all qualified FBS players in yards per reception (25.3) in 2012.

    A new coach (Ron Turner) and a new conference (Conference USA) could change Wright’s approach, but neither can ignore Wright’s big-play ability.

    While he was an assistant coach in the NFL, “Turner was often faulted for his lack of imagination offensively and tendency to play things safe,” says Paul Myerberg of tusconcitizen.com.

    How much Turner’s offensive philosophy will affect Wright remains to be seen, but Wright’s 2012 production was too difficult to ignore here.

    Phil Steele placed Wright on his Preseason 2013 All-CUSA Fourth Team.

4. Jamal Robinson (Louisiana-Lafayette)

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    Jamal Robinson, a rising junior, placed second among qualified FBS players in yards per reception (25.1) in 2012.

    Head coach Mark Hudspeth has led the Ragin’ Cajuns to consecutive 9-4 seasons and New Orleans Bowl victories. Robinson should play a major role in the program’s bid for a third straight bowl win.

    Robinson and Louisiana-Lafayette start off 2013 with a challenging pair of games, as the Ragin’ Cajuns travel to Arkansas and Kansas State. I cannot wait to see how much of a deep threat Robinson will be against the two schools from BCS conferences.

    Phil Steele placed Robinson on his 2013 Preseason All-Sun Belt Second Team.

3. Robert Herron (Wyoming)

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     Robert Herron, a rising senior from Wyoming, placed fourth among qualified FBS players in yards per reception (21.2) in 2012. Herron was also one of three starting receivers for the Cowboys.

    With the three starters after 2013 spring practices being returning players, Herron could play a similar role to the one he played last year—one of FBS’ biggest deep threats.

    Phil Steele placed Herron on his 2013 Preseason All-Mountain West Second Team.

2. Jordan Leslie (UTEP)

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    Jordan Leslie could be one of Conference USA’s best receivers in 2013 after being one of FBS’ biggest deep threats in 2012.

    Leslie’s 19.1 yards per reception placed 10th among qualified FBS players in 2012.

    With alumnus Sean Kugler in town as the new head coach, Leslie and UTEP should improve from a 3-9 season in 2012. Aside from a stop at Boise State in 2006, Kugler coached NFL offensive lines for 12 years after leaving UTEP in 2000. An expected improved offensive line will invariably improve the entire Miners offense, which includes Leslie.

    With Michael Edwards having moved on to the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, Leslie is the undisputed No. 1 receiver for the Miners. Paul Myerberg of usatoday.com wonders if anyone else will step up from the receiving corps, but Leslie will produce in big ways nonetheless.

    Phil Steele placed Leslie on his 2013 Preseason All-CUSA Second Team.

1. Devin Smith (Ohio State)

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    Corey Brown was the more productive Ohio State receiver in terms of receptions and receiving yards in 2012, but Devin Smith was better.

    Smith had almost twice as many yards per reception (20.6 to 11.2) and twice as many touchdown receptions (six to three) as Brown with only half the receptions (60 to 30).

    Smith’s 20.6 yards per reception placed fifth among qualified FBS players in 2012 as well.

    The rising junior will again lead the Buckeyes receiving corps with Brown, but this time, the season will count.

    B/R’s own David Fitzgerald II placed Smith on his 2013 Preseason All-Big Ten Second Team.

    As always, thanks for reading, and check me out on Twitter at @MCarroll_Philly!