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August 3, 2011

Preseason unit rankings: Receivers

Fall practice gets under way this week, and that means the 2011 college football season has started.

Today, we unveil the second of our national unit rankings. We're revealing one unit per day and end next Tuesday with overall coaching staffs.

The rankings take into account what the players have accomplished, how we think the players will do this season and sheer talent. But production does trump potential.

Here are the receiver rankings, which also includes tight ends. Next up: offensive lines.


BUZZ: Michael Floyd and Theo Riddick should be a great duo for the Irish, especially considering this will be the second season for coach Brian Kelly and the quarterbacks should be quite comfortable with the scheme. Floyd is one of the three or four most talented receivers in the nation. TE Tyler Eifert has 40-catch potential. While Floyd and Riddick are set at the top of the Irish pecking order, it would be helpful to them if at least one other receiver emerges as a complementary threat. Kelly says he needs seven receivers to make his offense truly go; he's not going to have seven this season. But his top two plus his tight end make for a productive bunch.

BUZZ: The assumption here is that James Rodgers, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, will be healthy. Rodgers is a great fit for this offense; he is a tough runner, can get deep and also is willing to go across the middle. Markus Wheaton is a good No. 2 guy, but if he has to be the go-to guy because Rodgers can't go, the Beavers do not have a top-10 receiving corps. H-back Joe Halahuni is an underrated weapon, and WR Jordan Bishop is an emerging playmaker.

BUZZ: Michael Egnew might be the best tight end in the nation. He had 90 receptions last season and works the middle of the field well. T.J. Moe is the leading returning receiver; he had 92 receptions and can get deep, though he's at his best as a possession guy. There's also Jerrell Jackson, who had 50 catches last season, and Wes Kemp, which means the Tigers return their top four receivers. How these guys will work with new QB James Franklin is a big key to Mizzou's season.

BUZZ: Roy Roundtree is coming off a 72-catch, 935-yard season, but he was overshadowed - as was everybody else on the Wolverines' roster - by QB Denard Robinson last season. Michigan also returns WRs Darryl Stonum, Junior Hemingway and Martavious Odoms, as well as TE Kevin Koger, who should become a bigger weapon on the revamped offense.

BUZZ: The Spartans' receiving corps is just a bit better than their in-state rival's, though leading receiver Mark Dell is gone. No matter - B.J. Cunningham had one fewer reception that Dell last season but caught three more TD passes (nine to six). Keshawn Martin is a burner who should have a bigger role this season, and converted QB Keith Nichol is a solid No. 3 guy. In addition, the Spartans might have the best tight end trio of anybody with Garrett Celek, Brian Linthicum and Dion Sims.

BUZZ: The Aggies' backfield gets most of the notice, which suits this group just fine. Jeff Fuller is a big-time wide receiver, though he is overshadowed in the Big 12 by Justin Blackmon and Ryan Broyles. Fuller caught 12 TD passes last season and was the first Aggies receiver in history with a 1,000-yard season. Ryan Swope tied Fuller for the team lead with 72 receptions but is more of a possession guy. There's also Uzoma Nwachukwu, who is a dangerous No. 3 receiver. Kenric McNeal is another weapon. A&M also has a solid group of tight ends.

BUZZ: Blackmon is the best receiver in the nation and is coming off a monster season - 111 receptions for 1,782 yards (16.1 ypc) and 20 TDs. He was the Big 12 offensive player of the year and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's best receiver. Josh Cooper is a dangerous No. 2 guy; he had 68 receptions last season. Senior Hubert Anyiam never has quite lived up to billing, but he still has the physical tools to be a 45-catch guy. He was hampered by an ankle injury last season.

BUZZ: Three guys with at least 44 catches return, plus the Wildcats add touted Texas transfer Dan Buckner. The go-to guy is Juron Criner, who had 82 receptions and 11 TDs last season. He's a big-time deep threat and has great size (6-4/210). David Douglas was the second-leading receiver last season, and he's a good route-runner and possession guy. David Roberts is the third member of the 44-catch club from last season. Buckner is another big receiver (6-4/220), and if he can maintain his consistency and effort, he could catch 60 passes in this offense. Terrence Miller is another returnee, and he had 29 receptions last season. Arizona is breaking in a new tight end, but because the receiving corps is so deep, an untested tight end really doesn't matter.

BUZZ: Ryan Broyles led the nation with 131 receptions last season, which were good for 1,622 yards and 14 scores. He surprise more than a few people by returning for his senior season. He's not a blazer, but he's plenty fast and also shifty. Kenny Stills was ultra-productive as a true freshman, with 61 catches and five TDs. He's more physical than Broyles. Trey Franks was another true freshman who performed well last season, with 29 catches. He should be the No. 3 guy this season. TE James Hanna had just 18 catches, but he averaged 16.2 yards per catch and scored seven times.

BUZZ: The Hogs return their top four wide receivers; three of them started at least five games. The one that didn't was Joe Adams - and he might be the best of the quartet. Those top four receivers are back - Adams, Greg Childs, Cobi Hamilton and Jarius Wright - combined for 170 receptions for 2,890 yards and 23 TDs even though Childs missed six games with a knee injury. All but Childs caught a pass covering at least 85 yards last season. The Hogs will miss TE D.J. Williams, but with this much talent at wide receiver, it won't matter that much.

(Text by Mike Huguenin. Rankings by Olin Buchanan, Tom Dienhart, David Fox, Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee.)

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