Ranking the Big Ten Receivers — Leaders Division
By Tony Gerdeman
If the Big Ten ever wants to shed some of the "slow" image that gets shoved down your throats, having some playmakers at receiver would help.
Granted, it will never get rid of the label, but it would make those who use it look somewhat foolish.
Though it's not that there aren't productive receivers in the conference, it's just that they're not allowed to produce. The Big Ten just doesn't throw the ball.
One day, somebody will remember how Joe Tiller turned Purdue around and get themselves out of the cellar. Oh, who am I kidding? If they did that, that would mean that they'd win more and then have to pay their coaches more, which they'll never do.
3. Ohio State
Starters: Devin Smith (14-294-4), Corey Brown (14-205-1), Verlon Reed (9-132), Jake Stoneburner (TE) (14-193-7)
Possible Starters/Backups: Evan Spencer (3-78-1), Chris Fields (8-114), Tyrone Williams (5-74), Michael Thomas*, Frank Epitropoulos*, Ricquan Southward*, Jeff Heuerman (TE) (1-25), Nick Vannett (TE), Blake Thomas*(TE)
It's not that the Buckeye receivers were bad last year, they just had a terrible delivery system. They were also young, injured and suspended. It was a bad combination. No receiver had more than four catches in a game until Devier Posey pulled down five in Gene Smith's precious bowl game. Devin Smith showed promise as a sideline threat and should continue to do so in 2012. Verlon Reed missed most of the season, but had he been healthy, he would have undoubtedly led the team in receptions. He is the type of versatile receiver that could definitely thrive in Urban Meyer's offense. Corey Brown will work mostly out of the slot, which means that he will also be used in the running game. Meyer recruited Brown when he was coaching at Florida, so we'll get to see what he had in mind for Brown way back when. True freshman Michael Thomas had a very good Spring Game, and really improved every single day of spring practice. Much is expected of tight end Jake Stoneburner in this offense, and like Brown, he was also recruited by Meyer at Florida. Stoneburner ran a 4.49 during the spring and worked mostly with the receivers. He'll flex out quite a bit in 2012 and will be as much a vertical threat as a horizontal threat.
Starters: Antavian Edison (44-584-3), O.J. Ross (33-356-3), Gary Bush (29-310-3), Crosby Wright (16-223-2) (TE), Gabe Holmes (TE) (11-133-1)
Possible Starters/Backups: Charles Torwudzo, Dolapo Macarthy, Ishmael Aristide, Tommie Thomas, Raheem Mostert, Shane Mikesky, Justin Sinz (TE) (3-25), Sterling Carter (JUCO) (TE), Ryan Morris* (TE), Jonathan Curry* (TE), Carlos Carvajal* (TE)
The Boilermakers lose leading receiver Justin Siller from last year, but return three receivers who combined for 106 receptions in 2011. With more consistent quarterbacking, Antavian Edison, O.J. Ross and Gary Bush could catch 140 passes this season. Despite starting just six games last year, Edison led the team in receiving yards, and should add a few hundred more on to his total from 2011. Ross possesses great speed and is often asked to do something with nothing. Look for him to get the ball in space and then try and do something with it. For all of his speed, his long reception of the year last year was only 28 yards. The coaches are sometimes asking too much of him. Bush finished strong last year, catching 15 of his 29 passes over the final four games. If he picks up where he left off last season, the Boilers' passing game could give defenses trouble. Crosby Wright started nine games last year and Gabe Holmes started four. They represent one of the better tight end duos in the conference. They complement eachother well and should continue to produce in 2012. The talent of the depth is a question mark, but if the starters stay healthy, depth won't be an issue.
Starters: Jared Abbrederis (55-933-8), Jeff Duckworth (15-230-1), Jacob Pedersen (30-356-8)
Possible Starters/Backups: Manasseh Garner (2-45), Jordan Fredrick, Isaiah Williams, A.J. Jordan, Marquis Mason, Chase Hammond, Kenzel Doe (2-4), Fred Willis, Brian Wozniak (TE), Sam Arneson (TE), Brock DeCicco (TE)
The Badger receivers had a pretty rough spring. Jared Abbrederis was out recovering from a foot injury, so the young Wisconsin pass catchers were all given chances to shine. Rarely did anyone come through, however. While everybody expects Abbrederis to have another big year, how much of his production came from the legs of Russell Wilson? Remember, those legs are now gone. Abbrederis might have more catches this season, but his average yards per catch should drop way down. Jeff Duckworth was talked about as a guy who needs to step up in 2012, but was inconsistent during the spring and had trouble catching the passes thrown his way. For a possession receiver like Duckworth, catching the ball is a bit of a necessity. Chase Hammond is a young receiver who had a couple of nice moments late in the spring, but just like every other receiver, consistency is an issue. Tight end Jacob Pedersen will be very busy this season. For one, the coaches love his ability; for two, quarterback Danny O'Brien needs somebody to throw to. He could catch 40 or 50 passes this year. While Wisconsin will obviously rely on their running game, they will still need some youth to emerge here.
8. Penn State
Starters: Justin Brown (35-517-2), Devon Smith (25-402-2)
Possible Starters/Backups: Alex Kenney, Eugene Lewis*, Allen Robinson (3-29), Matt Zanellato, Shawney Kersey (5-108), Brandon Moseby-Felder (4-53), Malik Golden*, Garry Gilliam (TE), Dakota Royer (TE), Kevin Haplea (3-21-1), Kyle Carter (TE), Jesse James* (TE), Brent Wilkerson* (TE)
Bill O'Brien said that his offense is going to be "multiple" at receiver and tight end, which is why he has three receivers and two tight ends listed as starters on his post-spring depth chart. Justin Brown and Devon Smith are the veterans and they are both listed as first-teamers. Brown had a decent season last year, but faded down the stretch with just three catches over the final three games. With O'Brien's offense, and actual quarterback coaching, Brown could be in for a profitable season. Devon Smith is battling some legal issues, but that didn't stop him from being named a starter on the depth chart. At 5-7, he's clearly a slot guy, but he isn't always an effective ankle breaker. Alex Kenney impressed a few people during the spring, and he's currently backing Smith up. He has Smith's speed, but is six-foot tall. Allen Robinson and Shawney Kersey are listed as co-starters out wide, which means somebody still needs to step up and win a job. Eugene Lewis is a very promising freshman prospect who could get a long look this year. Garry Gilliam and Kyle Carter are listed as starters at tight end, but keep an eye on Kevin Haplea and Jesse James. James is a freshman who impressed during the spring. With a tight end-oriented offense, this could be a very busy position group this season.
Starters: Kofi Hughes (35-536-3), Jamonne Chester (21-240), Ted Bolser (TE) (14-165-1)
Possible Starters/Backups: Duwyce Wilson (17-217-3), Shane Wynn (19-197), Cody Latimer (12-141-2), Nick Stoner, Jay McCants (6-54), Logan Young, Levi Beckett, Jordan Jackson, Kevin Davis*, Caleb Cornett*, Jake Reed (TE), Paul Phillips (TE), Charles Love (TE), Jason Spriggs* (TE)
As quarterback Tre Roberson gets more comfortable, his receivers will become more productive. Given the state of the quarterbacks last year, receiver Kofi Hughes was about as productive as could be hoped. Only four times last season did Hughes fail to haul in at least one 20-yard pass in a game. He can make plays, he just needs somebody who can get the ball to him. Jamonne Chester started seven games last year as a sophomore and is more of a possession receiver. He's physical and can fight for the passes on the sidelines. Duwyce Wilson has promising ability, but has yet to emerge as a top target. Shane Wynn is tiny (5-7), but he is extremely fast. Expect him to get more and more touches as the season goes on. Depending on how the offense goes this year, Ted Bolser could be one of the more productive tight ends in the conference. He is an underrated athlete who can do a little bit with the ball after the catch. Overall, it's a promising group, but one with a number of flaws. For Indiana to succeed, the receivers will have to play at their best all season long, which will then make the running game easier as well. So much of the Hoosiers' success depends on this group, but there is potential here.
Starters: Spencer Harris (26-226-1), Darius Millines (19-218-1), Ryan Lankford (12-108), Jon Davis (TE) (22-187-1), Evan Wilson (TE) (9-89-3)
Possible Starters/Backups: Jeremy Whitlow, Anthony Williams, J.J. Robertson*, Kenny Knight, Jake Kumerow (3-15), Fritz Rock, Terry Hawthorne (CB), Miles Osei (QB), Matt LaCosse (TE) (1-11), Eddie Viliunas (TE) (4-61), Daniel Rhodes* (TE)
Quite simply, Illinois needs playmakers. The departed A.J. Jenkins was running free through defenses quite often last season, but even that came out of the slot against safeties and linebackers. Darius Millines is the only other wide receiver on the roster with a catch of at least 20 yards. If you combine Millines' numbers with Spencer Harris' and Ryan Lankford's, you're looking at a 9.7 yard per catch average, which is terrible. Of the three, Millines has the most potential, but he can't stay healthy. Together, their longest catch during conference play was an 18-yarder by Lankford against Michigan. It's no wonder that Tim Beckman is looking at cornerback (and former receiver) Terry Hawthorne on offense. He could step in and almost instantly be the team's best receiver. Quarterback Miles Osei might also get some snaps at receiver as the coaches look for anybody with any type of skill whatsoever. Tight end Jon Davis is a bit undersized (6-3 230), but he's fast and athletic, so he is also another receiving option who can split out wide. Evan Wilson started four games last year and is a capable player. Matt LaCosse has also impressed a few. There are a lot of bodies here, but bodies don't win games. They need explosive players and it doesn't look like they have any.
3. Ohio State
5. Michigan State
8. Penn State
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