Thicc Stauskas' Big Ten Position Rankings: Wide Receiver, Part One
If your school's name starts with the letter "I" they're down here.
Our preseason position rankings move on to the wide receivers. As usual, Dan did all the research and put together the rankings, while I (Ace) handled the writeup. Here’s the big-ass color-coded spreadsheet:
We begin, as always, with the bottom of the conference.
One of Paul Chryst’s biggest issues in recent years has been his failure to surround Graham Mertz with wide receivers that strike any fear into a defense. Since Quintez Cephus went pro after the 2019 season, now-departed tight end Jake Ferguson has been the team’s most dangerous option in the passing game while surrounded by average-at-best wideouts. Mertz has disappointed. He hasn’t had a lot of help, either.
The situation may only worsen this year without Ferguson and outgoing WRs Danny Davis III and Kendric Pryor, the three Badgers to catch more than 20 passes last year. New #1-by-default WR Chimere Dike caught the occasional deep shot as a sophomore. Nobody else on the roster had more than three receptions last year and it wasn’t because they were stuck behind superstars.
Remember when Indiana’s receiving corps featured the likes of Simmie Cobbs Jr., Nick Westbrook, and Whop Philyor? Those days felt like a distant memory in 2021. Wideout Ty Fryfogle flopped as a number one option, leaving tight end Peyton Hendershot to lead the Hoosiers in receiving yardage. Hendershot (four TDs) was the only IU player with more than one receiving touchdown.
Both Hendershot and Fryfogle are gone. So is last year’s #2 WR, Miles Marshall, who transferred to Miami (OH); #3 receiver DJ Matthews Jr. is recovering from a torn ACL suffered last October. The coaches moved Donaven McCulley, who played seven games at quarterback last year, to WR after spring practice ended — and he’d very much been in their QB competition.
The Hoosiers nose in front of Wisconsin by virtue of having slightly more returning production and one more scholarship receiver on the roster. Both situations need some players to emerge from obscurity.
It’s yet another team whose top receiver is their tight end. Iowa at least brings back sophomore big-play specialist Keagan Johnson and senior chain-mover Nico Ragaini. Johnson could be a breakout star if the Hawkeyes get even average QB play; he was one of the Big Ten’s most productive players after the catch as a freshman.
Depth is a huge concern, particularly beyond sophomore Arland Bruce IV. There’s one wide receiver on the roster from the 2019 and 2020 classes combined: former unranked three-star Diante Vines, a special teams player who’s yet to record a statistic at Iowa. The Ferentz braintrust has taken in not one, but two JuCo receivers to bolster the ranks.
As it turns out, taking in the fewest scholarship wide receivers in the conference, only recruiting lower-rated three-star prospects, and chasing off half the position group leads to poor results and shaky depth. Who knew?
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