Predicting the SEC's Top 7 Breakout WRs in 2015
Wide receiver is one of those positions where younger players can come in and make an impact, and players who have been waiting for their chance can step in and become stars in a hurry.
In 2014, players like South Carolina's Pharoh Cooper, Auburn's D'haquille "Duke" Williams, Texas A&M's Josh Reynolds and others stepped up to become bona fide superstars in the SEC.
For the second straight year, quarterback play in the SEC might be struggle, which means many more wide receivers need to step up to help their signal-callers out.
Who are the top seven breakout wide receiver candidates in the SEC? Our picks based on talent, system and opportunity are in this slideshow.
Arkansas WR Keon Hatcher
Keon Hatcher led Arkansas with 43 catches for 558 yards and six touchdowns last season, so it's odd to see him listed as a breakout receiver.
In the SEC, though, he's largely an unknown commodity.
At 6'2" and 210 pounds, Hatcher presents matchup nightmares over the middle and deep downfield. Now that new offensive coordinator Dan Enos—a guy who has produced 3,000-yard receivers in four of his last five seasons—is in town, Hatcher's production should go way up.
With running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins back, as well as four starters along the offensive line, Arkansas will still be a run-first team. But Enos will swing the pendulum ever so slightly to a more balanced attack, which will be a big reason why Hatcher tops the 800-yard mark in 2015.
LSU WR Commit Tyron Johnson
LSU is in desperate need of a spark in the passing game, and 5-star wide receiver commit Tyron Johnson could be that spark.
Johnson, a 6'1", 191-pounder from New Orleans, has great top-end speed, is a big target and is dangerous after the catch.
He'll join an LSU receiving corps that, while talented and experienced, hasn't been able to kickstart a passing offense that ranked last in the SEC in 2014 (162.9 yards per game). Quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris were both inefficient for the Tigers, and fresh faces outside could be what they need to get things going.
LSU always seems to have talent at wide receiver, and it's going to be difficult for veterans like Travin Dural, John Diarse and others to keep Johnson off the field in 2015.
Texas A&M WR Speedy Noil
Texas A&M wide receiver Speedy Noil came in as a hot prospect, and as a true freshman in 2014, he showed flashes of what he's capable of.
Noil caught 46 passes for 583 yards and five touchdowns last season, good enough to be the Aggies' third-most productive receiver.
He might be the best in 2015.
Noil has speed to burn, is more physical than you'd think and, if Josh Reynolds is occupying the top defensive back on the opposing defense, could find himself in some very advantageous matchups in head coach Kevin Sumlin's offense.
A full offseason of work will not only help Noil, but when combined with a full offseason for starting quarterback Kyle Allen, Noil could be poised for a huge season. Could he break the century mark? That might be lofty, but it's not out of the question.
Alabama WR Commit Calvin Ridley
Alabama head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin are losing their three top wide receivers from last season's SEC championship squad, including Heisman Trophy finalist Amari Cooper.
Who will step in?
ArDarius Stewart, Cam Sims, Chris Black and Robert Foster are all possibilities, but Calvin Ridley could top them all once he arrives on campus later this summer.
The 6'0", 170-pounder is incredibly quick, has tremendous hands and runs great routes. He developed a chemistry with early enrollee quarterback Blake Barnett while at The Opening last July, and whether Barnett wins the quarterback job or not, the door is wide open for Ridley to step in and become a star at the Capstone.
Missouri WR Nate Brown
For the second straight offseason, Missouri is charged with replacing its top three wide receivers.
Rising sophomore Nate Brown might be able to help.
Brown, a 6'3", 205-pounder from Suwanee, Georgia, only caught five passes for 45 yards as a freshman in 2014 but is Missouri's top returning receiver off last season's SEC East championship squad.
Like predecessors Bud Sasser and Darius White, Brown has the size to present matchup problems to opposing defenses and win "50-50" battles more times than not. He is big enough to be a possession weapon in space and quick enough to be dangerous on bubble screens.
Missouri is at a point now where it doesn't rebuild its wide receiving corps, it reloads. Brown is the next in line to become a star in Columbia.
Tennessee WR Marquez North
Tennessee wide receiver Marquez North came to Rocky Top with a ton of recruiting hype, but during his first two seasons with the Vols, he's been more sizzle than steak.
North had 68 catches for 816 yards and five touchdowns during his first two seasons, which isn't bad, but it's certainly not what many Vols fans expected when he signed on the dotted line in February 2013 as a 4-star prospect.
A shoulder injury cut his 2014 season short, but in 2015, he'll be back and leading a talented and deep corps of receivers.
"He should really break out and emerge as a no-brainer draft pick as a junior," wrote Brad Shepard, Bleacher Report's lead Tennessee writer. "Blessed with huge size, soft hands and above-average speed, he's a shoo-in to start for the Vols when healthy."
His career stat line is nice, but the best is yet to come. He'll double all three categories in 2015 as the leader of a Vols offense that will benefit tremendously from the stability starting quarterback Joshua Dobbs brings this offseason.
Auburn WR Stanton Truitt
With quarterback Nick Marshall gone and Jeremy Johnson stepping in, Auburn will become more of a balanced offense in 2015 with more emphasis on the passing game. Wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams will lead a deep receiving corps that includes Ricardo Louis, Melvin Ray, Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens.
A big piece of that puzzle is finding a weapon in the slot for Johnson on screen passes and speed sweeps. Stanton Truitt might be that guy.
Truitt only caught two passes for 13 yards as a true freshman in 2014 before a shoulder injury ended his season. When he's healthy, though, he could be a perfect fit for the spot formerly occupied by Quan Bray.
At 5'9", 175 pounds, Truitt is one of those players who opposing players don't want to get too close to, as he has the moves that can make defenders look silly and take it to the house from just about anywhere.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.