In this week’s around the Big 12 we will look at the wide receiving corps for every team in the conference. While the conference lost some dynamic playmakers at the position in James Washington and Keke Coutee, a lot of promising players return for the 2018 season. Every team returns at least one starter at receiver last season, and with the quality freshman that received significant playing time last year (CeeDee Lamb , Jalen Reagor, T.J. Vasher) Big 12 fans can expect a strong season from the position.
1: West Virginia
No team in the country returns the amount of production at the receiver position than West Virginia. David Sills V had the most touchdown catches in America with 18, while Gary Jennings had 1,096 yards on 97 catches. Junior Marcus Simms will add some explosiveness to the two dynamic senior receivers, as his 18.9 YPC was among the best in the conference last year, and his five touchdowns came on only 35 catches. All three receivers may break 1,000 yards due to the lack of depth behind them (no other returning player had over 100 yards) and the amount of passing Will Grier will be doing. Expect an extremely dynamic passing offense in Morgantown this fall.
CeeDee Lamb and Marquise Brown both return for the Sooners this year after great debut seasons, and both will be looking to be consistently dynamic. The two combined for over 1,900 yards and 14 touchdowns, however with Baker Mayfield and Mark Andrews gone they will have to shoulder an even heavier load in the passing game. Both Lamb and Brown are explosive athletes that are threats on both deep routes and short passes. Grant Calcaterra will have to replace Andrews at tight end, while speedy junior Mykel Jones will look to have an increased role this season after catching 16 passes for 310 yards last season. Kyler Murray should have a decent group of weapons at his disposal this season.
3: Oklahoma State
Despite both James Washington and Marcell Ateman graduating, Oklahoma State still has a strong wide receiver group for this season. Dynamic slot receiver Jalen McCleskey is back for his senior season, while Dillon Stoner is a solid possession receiver that could have a breakout year. Tyron Johnson had an up and down debut season in Stillwater, and will be looking to replicate his performance from Bedlam (118 yards and two touchdowns.) While Oklahoma State will have to break in a new quarterback, their receivers should continue to give them a dynamic offense.
TCU has one of the more interesting receiver duos in the conference in Sophomore Jalen Reagor and Senior Kavontae Turpin. Reagor, who decommitted from Texas Tech and Oklahoma, proved to be a big play threat at the outside receiver position last season, while Kavontae Turpin has been a fixture in the slot at TCU since Trevone Boykin was in town. Turpin has a skillset similar to that of Jakeem Grant, and similar to Grant struggled with drops over his first three years. However, with Turpin’s athleticism TCU could have a dynamic passing game with sophomore Shawn Robinson at quarterback. Behind Reagor and Turpin, look for senior Jaelan Austin and redshirt freshman Omar Manning to get significant playing time.
Baylor’s receiver play was one of the few bright spots in their 1-11 season last year. Denzel Mims returns for his junior season after bursting on the scene for over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Mims will be the main star in the improved Baylor offense, though fellow returning starters Pooh Stricklin and Chris Platt should get an increase in catches with Charlie Brewer stepping in as a full time starter. Mims will be one of the best individual receivers in the Big 12 next season, and his play could determine Baylor’s offensive success this year.
Collin Johnson is one of the most talented receivers in the country, although behind him Texas has a host of inconsistent, yet talented players. Johnson had 765 yards with two touchdowns as a sophomore, and those numbers could improve if either Sam Ehlinger or Shane Buechele improve the Texas air attack. Behind Johnson, Lil’Jordan Humphrey and John Burt each had inconsistent seasons. Devin Duvernay showed flashes of being great last year, although like Burt and Humphrey will need to prove his ability every week to get a ton of targets.
7: Texas Tech
While Keke Coutee, Dylan Cantrell, Cameron Batson, and Derrick Willies all left at the end of last year, Texas Tech has some receivers with upside for the 2018 year. T.J. Vasher came on strong at the end of last season and ended with 545 yards and six touchdowns on only 29 catches. Vasher struggled with drops, though his spectacular catches that he displayed late in the year showed the potential he has. Alongside Vasher will be Antoine Wesley, who showed his versatility playing both inside and outside receiver last year, senior Ja’Deion HIgh, who’s most memorable play as a Red Raider was a 3rd and 30 catch vs. Iowa State in 2015, and De’Quan Bowman, who will get a fair amount of touches in the slot. While Texas Tech’s receiving corps might be inexperienced, they have the potential to put up solid numbers in 2018.
8: Iowa State
While long time star Allen Lazard is gone for Iowa State, Hakeem Butler could fill his role as the leading receiver for the Cyclones very well. Butler is every bit of 6’6, and managed to put up nearly 700 yards on only 41 catches. Butler had over 100 yards in the Liberty Bowl against Memphis, and could be on for some more great performances in 2018. Behind Butler, Deshaunte Jones and Matthew Eaton had some success last year, and will move into the no. 2 and no. 3 receiver roles.
Steven Sims Jr. is one of the best playmakers in the conference, but behind him Kansas has little help returning at wide receiver. Behind Sims’ 839 yards not one player had more than 365 yards. Jeremiah Booker and Quan Hampton will try and become solid second options, and Mavin Saunders could be a weapon at tight end. Behind Sims, it is hard to envision a great season from any Kansas receivers.
10: Kansas State
Kansas State lost their leading receiver from last year in Byron Pringle, and behind him the group did not have a single receiver with more than the 510 yards from Isaiah Zuber. Besides Zuber, look for Dalton Schoen to make his mark for Kansas State. The Wildcats will likely be a running team, so Zuber and Schoen will have to make their opportunities count in the passing game.