From SaturdayDownSouth, Christopher Smith takes a look at the 10 best returning receivers in the SEC.
The 2014 SEC recruiting class looks like a special one as far as running backs. But the 2015 class, which has been through one season, seems shaded more toward receiver.
Even with the losses of Laquon Treadwell, Pharoh Cooper and De’Runnya Wilson to the NFL draft through early entry, the SEC retains an impressive group of pass-catchers.
The trio of Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk and Antonio Callaway has every opportunity to be even more impressive within the next two years. Two of the SEC’s four 1,000-yard wideouts last season were true freshmen. The third, Callaway, averaged a whopping 19.4 yards per catch.
Seven of the 10 most productive returning seasons hold more than one year of eligibility.
Here are the top 10 returning SEC wide receivers ranked by their receiving yards in 2015.
|PLAYER||’16 CLASS||SCHOOL||’15 REC. YDS.||TDS||YDS/CATCH|
|1. Calvin Ridley||Sophomore||Alabama||1,045||7||11.7|
|2. Christian Kirk||Sophomore||Texas A&M||1,009||7||12.6|
|3. Fred Ross||Senior||Mississippi State||1,007||5||11.4|
|4. Josh Reynolds||Senior||Texas A&M||907||5||17.8|
|5. Drew Morgan||Senior||Arkansas||843||10||13.4|
|6. ArDarius Stewart||Junior||Alabama||700||4||11.1|
|7. Malachi Dupre||Junior||LSU||698||6||16.2|
|8. Garrett Johnson||Junior||Kentucky||694||2||15.1|
|9. Antonio Callaway||Sophomore||Florida||678||4||19.4|
|10. Trent Sherfield||Junior||Vanderbilt||659||3||12.9|
No matter who starts at quarterback for Alabama, the signal-caller has to feel pretty comfortable with his targets. In addition or Ridley, who already could be the best receiver in the conference, the Tide returns ArDarius Stewart (700 yards in 2015), tight end O.J. Howard (602) and Gehrig Dieter (1,033), a graduate transfer from Bowling Green.
Texas A&M is the only other school with multiple players in the top 10 by receiving yards, as both Kirk and Josh Reynolds made the list. But Speedy Noil managed nearly 600 yards in an injury-affected true freshman season in 2014. If he manages to stay healthy and out of trouble, that would relegate Ricky Seals-Jones (1,109 career receiving yards) to perhaps the most imposing No. 4 option in all of college football.
LSU also fields a pair of accomplished wideouts in Malachi Dupre, a five-star member of the 2014 class, and Travin Dural, a certified deep threat who averages 19.9 yards per catch.
Throw in Fred Ross (Mississippi State) and Drew Morgan (Arkansas) and receiver seems like an SEC West-centric position in 2016. But young players such as Trent Sherfield (Vanderbilt) and Terry Godwin (Georgia) could do something to change that.
Also, Alabama has such an abundance of pass-catchers that former touted recruit Chris Black has transferred to Mizzou for his final season and figures to get a chance to be one of Drew Lock’s top targets.
The SEC never has produced five 1,000-yard receivers in a single season, but that’s a distinct possibility in 2016.