Thicc Stauskas' Big Ten Position Rankings: Wide Receiver, Part Two
Would someone please offer Brian Hartline a head coaching job? Please? We're willing to beg.
If you missed part one, which also contains Dan’s big-ass spreadsheet, click here:
Let’s get back to it.
For the second straight year, Purdue has to replace a game-changing receiver. Third-round 2021 draft pick David Bell proved to be one of the best receivers in the country when 2020 second-rounder Rondale Moore struggled to stay healthy before leaving for the NFL. Is there another true #1 ready to step up?
Perhaps. Bell opted out of last year’s Music City Bowl, which afforded former Marshall transfer Broc Thompson the opportunity to reel in seven catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns against Tennessee — despite needing postseason surgery on both knees.
On the other hand, Thompson hadn’t surpassed three catches or 30 yards in any other game. It’s unfair to expect him to repeat his bowl performance on the regular. While there may not be another superstar, though, the Boilermakers have assembled plenty of depth.
Junior TJ Sheffield reached the end zone five times last season; sophomore Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen is a former four-star recruit; Iowa grad transfer Charlie Jones is an electric return man and serviceable starting receiver. The baseline level of play should be solid and there are a couple breakout candidates.
After losing two of his top four WRs, including #1 option Samori Toure, Scott Frost turned to the transfer portal.
Trey Palmer (LSU) and Marcus Washington (Texas) are former top-150 recruits who each played three seasons at their former schools without making a huge splash on offense. Palmer was one of the country’s best return specialists, at least, and both players earned enough snaps at receiver that you’d expect them to contribute this fall.
While not the splashiest addition, New Mexico State transfer Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda had the most productive 2021 season, averaging 15.6 yards on 36 receptions with four touchdowns in only ten games. Among guys who were actually Huskers last season, senior Omar Manning can stretch the field, while former Michigan and Iowa WR Oliver Martin has one last college season(!!!) to live up to his recruiting hype.
Nebraska has packed this room with enough talented players that it feels safe to assume a few will develop into passable-or-better starters.
The Wolverines are tough to place for a number of reasons:
Ronnie Bell’s injury in the opener left the team without a consistent #1 option last season.
The lack of volume in the passing game made for limited opportunities. Only Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota averaged fewer attempts per game among Big Ten teams.
The two potential starters this year could hardly have more divergent styles, with Cade McNamara a quick-hitting dink-and-dunk artist and JJ McNamara looking to extend plays so he can hit dingers.
There’s uncertainty about the depth chart beyond Bell and, maybe, Cornelius Johnson.
There are also a number of ways this room could move up the rankings. First and foremost is sophomore Andrel Anthony playing like he did against Michigan State, an all-conference level performance that he followed with six consecutive one-catch games.
Everyone from Johnson to Roman Wilson to Mike Sainristil also had big games at important times but couldn’t sustain their success. Sainristil played both ways in the spring and may move to the defense. That would make way for AJ Henning, who only had 79 receiving yards as a freshman but added 162 yards and two TDs as a rusher, primarily on sweeps from the slot.
While it’s hard for a true freshman to make an immediate impact at wideout, keep an eye on Darrius Clemons, one of the stars of the spring.
The raw numbers may not jump off the page with this group because of Jim Harbaugh’s offense — not to mention the receiving talent at TE and RB — but Michigan’s WRs should be quite effective on a down-to-down basis. Some good players are going to get squeezed out of this rotation.
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