Rating the 2018 Big Ten Receivers — East Division

Binjimen Victor Ohio State Football Buckeyes Big Ten Football

After having three 1,000-yard receivers in each of the last three seasons, the Big Ten produced just one such receiver — D.J. Moore (Maryland 1,033) — in 2017.

You know things are a bit thin when the top two returning receivers in terms of yardage are both from Nebraska.

The East division returns just two receivers who put up more than 600 yards receiving last season. However, that just means there are about to be some new receivers emerge.

Those about-to-be-stars will greatly factor into the ratings below.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

The Buckeyes lose tight end Marcus Baugh, but return every other contributing pass catcher from last year. Six starters split time at OSU’s three receiver positions and if you combine their numbers at each position, it looks like this: H – 96 rec, 1,133 yards, 6 TDs; Z – 47 rec, 858 yards, 14 TDs; X – 47 rec, 692 yards, 9 TDs. H-back Parris Campbell may be the most explosive receiver in the conference. K.J. Hill is a weapon over the middle. Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin can make things happen outside, and Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack should blossom in their second season as co-starters. Demario McCall will be involved in the slot as well. Redshirt sophomore tight end Luke Farrell emerged this spring. The Buckeyes also have 5-star Jeremy Ruckert in the TE mix now.

2. Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State’s receiving corps essentially came out of nowhere last year, but so did much of the Spartan football team. After two quiet seasons, Felton Davis emerged to lead MSU with 55 receptions for 776 yards and nine touchdowns. Another year in this offense should bring even bigger numbers this season. Darrell Stewart also surprised people as a sophomore last year with 50 catches for 501 yards. Cody White had a pretty decent freshman season of 35 receptions for 490 yards last season. The experience that all three receivers gained last year will allow them to hit the ground running this season. Starting tight end Matt Sokol (21-222-1) is back as well. This is a proven — and improving — group.

3. Michigan Wolverines

Michigan may have the two best young receivers in the Big Ten, but they still have to show it. Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones opened the season with the ones last year, but Black went down with a foot injury after just three games. Peoples-Jones played in every game, but only caught passes in seven of the 13 games in which he played. He finished with 22 catches for 277 yards, but he is also a dangerous weapon on jet sweeps and the like. Black looks like a future — and probably current — star. Michigan is deep at tight end, which is good because they use so many of them. Senior Grant Perry was Michigan’s best receiver last year. He won’t be this year. Sophomore Nico Collins will also be one to watch.

4. Penn State Nittany Lions

Junior Juwan Johnson is physically imposing (6-4 229) and athletic. While he only had one touchdown in his 54 receptions for 701 yards last season, he should become a viable red-zone threat this season. Senior DeAndre Thompkins is a consistent contributor over the years, never having more than 28 or fewer than 23 receptions in a season. Tight end Mike Gesicki and his 57 receptions from last season will need to be replaced. Penn State generally has options at tight end, however, so expect somebody to emerge there. There are also some talented freshman wide receivers in the mix this season, particularly 5-star Justin Shorter (6-4 220), who was the No. 1 receiver in the 2018 class.

5. Indiana Hoosiers

There is plenty to like here with the Hoosier receivers. Chief among them is the return of Nick Westbrook, who missed last season, but had 54 receptions for 995 yards and six touchdowns in 2016. He should step in just fine for the departed Simmie Cobbs. Luke Timian will again be in the slot, but the Hoosiers will be hoping he does more after the catch than he did in last year’s 68 receptions where he averaged just 8.7 yards per catch. Whop Philyor had a productive freshman season with 33 catches for 335 yards and three touchdowns. Taysir Mack also had a strong freshman season (23-310-3). A tight end will be needed, as the loss of Ian Thomas is significant. Overall, this is a good group with possibly the most-productive receiver in the Big Ten.

6. Maryland Terrapins

D.J. Moore and his 1,033 yards receiving are gone, but the void he left behind remains. The top two returning receivers for the Terps are seniors Taivon Jacobs (47-553-5) and Jahrvis Davenport (13-123), and their respective performances this season are paramount. D.J. Turner is a stocky slot receiver (5-9 200) who has been around a few years now. Tights ends will need to be found, but D.J. Durkin and new offensive coordinator Matt Canada have options. Durkin also brought in a handful of freshman receivers, so don’t be surprised if somebody emerges there.

7. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Tight end Jerome Washington transferred over from Miami and led Rutgers with 28 catches for 282 yards and one touchdown last season. He is back for his senior season and much more is expected of him this time around. The rest of the Scarlet Knight pass catchers, however, have many questions to answer. Sophomore Bo Melton started three games last year, catching four passes. In the spring game, however, he was dynamic catching five passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns. Fellow sophomore Hunter Hayek started twice last year, but caught just eight passes for 62 yards. He will be in the slot. Outside of the names above, the rest of the production will have to come from young players who are promising, but still very inexperienced.

2018 Big Ten Ratings

Quarterbacks — East | West

Running Backs — East | West

7 Responses

  1. Most folks blamed JT for passing problems but I feel the receivers aren’t all that strong. Yes Parris Campbell may the most explosive receiver in the league. He also may have the worst hands in the league. Dropped balls, fumbles, they all happened too frequently. Look at Johnny Dixon’s stats for the last 6 games–0 catches, 0 yards. McLauren hasn’t shown much in his career either. Right now if Bucks are facing 3rd and 9 I want Hill or Mack making the catch.

  2. I am so glad Mike Gesicki has moved on. He was a huge pain in the ass.

  3. Michigan State clearly has the best pair of WR which likely gives them the best overall corps. I don’t know that we can keep touting depth and potential as the basis for claiming we have the top WR corps in the division. Our “depth” is largely due to the overall mediocrity of the core 6 guys…i.e. no one has emerged as an above-average WR.

    Our first goal needs to be finding a go-to WR! If its Saunders, then so be it. If its Mack, great. But you don’t have an elite WR corps without a go-to guy. Additionally, we need to find a clear No. 2 to play out wide and then a legit slot WR (that can run all the routes and CATCH).

    We need to demand more from the 4th and 5th year guys. The coaches should not just be ok with their limitations. In year 5 if Campbell can’t play out wide with his size, speed, then his role should be limited. If Hill can’t run routes that allow him to average 12 to 15 per catch than he should be limited. McLaurin and Dixon are not imposing physically so they need to gain command of the entire route tree.

    Lastly, we should drop the seniority nod at the WR position and if the Freshmen, RS Freshmen, etc are better (or even) than play them. How long do you wait for 4th and 5th year guys to finally get it???

    1. You seem to have glossed over this part of the article, so I’ll post it again…

      H – 96 rec, 1,133 yards, 6 TDs; Z – 47 rec, 858 yards, 14 TDs; X – 47 rec, 692 yards, 9 TDs.

      That’s stellar production! 2700 yds and 29 TDs total (and that’s just the WRs – doesn’t include the TEs or RBs). The fact that it was spread over 6+ players matters not. AND, the other point you missed was that ALL of the players that contributed to that production will be back. It only makes sense that those players will be even better as a group in 2018.

      Lastly, your point about needing a go to receiver also doesn’t make sense when you consider that the defense can focus on shutting down your go to guy, and then your offense bogs down. With 6 go to guys, each equally capable of producing, the opposing DCs have their hands full.

      1. Again, for the second time you cite average play spread out amongst 6 or so guys. You may be impressed, but most who know football aren’t.

        Moreover, your comment about a go-to WR is nonsense (to put it as kind as possible). Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, Calvin Ridley…having a #1 WR is not a hindrance. I could go on and on…hell the last two Championships we won we had a go-to WR each time (Michael Jenkins/Devin Smith). Our illustrious football history is full of go-to WRs. Lol. What the hell are you talking about?

        1. First off, we’re all Buckeyes here, no need to be insulting. Maybe you can’t help yourself, but despite your high opinion of yourself, you’re NOT the only one who watches and knows football. Tony himself (you know, the guy who wrote this article) is citing stats that show that the WR group had success last season. Does that mean he (or I) are saying they were world beaters and not in need of improvement in multiple areas? No. Is there a potential ‘go-to’ guy in this group? Yes.
          KJ Hill had 56 catches for 549 yds – compare that to 2014 Michael Jenkins, who had 54 catches (but much more yardage – 799 yds – that’s a big difference). My point is this – there are guys in this WR room who have shown capabilities, and with normal progression, should be even better this year. Will KJ Hill, Johnny Dixon, Mack or McLaurin become ‘go-to’ guys? With a strong armed gunslinger behind center, I think the chances are pretty good that this year’s passing numbers could be stellar.

          1. Sorry you referenced Michael Jenkins (2002), and I posted Michael Thomas’s stats from 2014. Jenkins had 61 catches for 1076 yds that year.

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