Good morning and Happy Hump Day, Cougs! Before we start some with the rankings, some quick news, by way of the Cougfan message boards. Within this link, you can check out the design for the new Football Operations Building, which the Board of Regents will be voting on later this summer. Pretty cool!
No onto, the regularly scheduled programming...For some reason, a topic that has been a recurring great debate over the last few years has been figuring out who has the best wide receiver corps in the conference. The Pac-12's reputation is that of a passing league and you can't have a whole lot of passing without a whole lot of catching. Going into 2012, the conference is led by 4 legitimate superduperstars who have shown up on various all-conference, all-american and, gulp, even Heisman prediction lists. So who has the best receivers of the bunch? There's only one way to find out and I think you all know what that is...
1. USC - Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and some other guys, but seriously George Farmer, De'Von Flournoy, Victor Blackwell, Xavier Grimble
As I mentioned in the intro, there are four superduperstar receivers in the Pac-12 heading into the season. It just so happens that two of them will play for USC, in Woods and Lee. They're the most electrifying athletic tandem to hit LA since Zack Morris and AC Slater joined forces on the hoops team before Zack blew out his knee. The duo combined for 2,435 yards and 26 Touchdowns (!) last season so you don't need much after them, but George Farmer, De'Von Flournoy and Victor Blackwell round out some very talented depth. By the way, I should have mentioned that I'll be factoring tight ends into these rankings. Xavier Grimble is USC's and guess what? He's really good too.
Incoming Freshmen: Darreus Rogers (WR), Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick (TE)
2. WSU - Marquess Wilson, Bobby Ratliff, Dominique Williams, Kristoff Williams, Andrei Lintz, Gino Simone, Isiah Myers, Henry Eaddy, Rahmel Dockery
Before you signal the homer alarm, read the first name on the list and look at the dude in the picture again. Marquess Wilson is ridiculous. I have him neck and neck with Robert Woods for best receiver in the conference (all due respect to Keenan Allen and Marqise Lee). The Cougs lose their second and third best receivers from last year, but have some very talented options waiting in the wings. Ratliff is my favorite of the bunch. He may not possess MQW's big play ability, but he'll be as steady as they come. The guy who may bring some more big plays is Dominique Williams. The flat-topped one is poised to break out. Andrei Lintz is the player most likely to cause Cougar fans to run "Beast Mode" into the ground this season, but he'll be fun to watch as a match-up nightmare. There is just a ton to like about this unit.
Incoming Freshman: Gabriel Marks, Brett Bartolone, Alex Jackson
3. Cal - Keenan Allen, Maurice Harris, Richard Rodgers and some freshmen
I might be overplaying the value of superduperstars with this ranking, but Keenan Allen is the fourth of the Pac-12 receiving studs so Cal should get credit in the rankings accordingly. That said, the depth chart is a little scary. So scary, in fact that Allen and Harris are the only two receivers on it. Yikes. Jeff Tedford is pretty openly pining for his freshman class of receivers to get to work in Berkeley at this point. Fortunately, their recuriting class is loaded with them. Speaking of which...
Incoming Freshmen: Bryce Treggs, Kenny Lawler, Chris Harper, Darius Powe, Cedric Dozier
4. UW - Kasen Williams, James Johnson, Kevin Smith, DiAndre Campbell, Josh Perkins, Jamaal Jones, Cody Bruns, Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Did you know that Kasen Williams is the greatest football player in history because he jumped over Nolan Washington to gain two extra yards this one time? It's true. He is. That concludes the sour grapes portion of this post. In all honesty, Williams and ASJ are absolute studs. Good for them.
Incoming Freshmen: Jaydon Mickens, Kendyl Taylor, Dwayne Washington
5. OSU - Markus Wheaton, Brandin Cooks, Jordan Bishop, Obum Gwacham, Colby Prince, Connor Hamlett
I think that OSU is officially out of Rodgerses at this point, but Wheaton returns as the leading receiver from last season. Cooks and Bishop can each chip in with some big play potential and Gwacham can chip in when it comes to having ridiculously awesome names.
Incoming Freshmen: Malik Gilmore (WR), Dustin Stanton and Caleb Smith (TE's)
6. Arizona State - JJ Holliday, Rashad Ross, Jamal Miles, Kevin Ozier, Darwin Rogers (JC), Chris Coyle
For all the talent that was at the top of these rankings, things really start to drop off at this point. ASU saw the departures of leading receivers Gerrell Robinson and Aaron Pflugrad so they're in "someone has to step up" territory. Miles caught 60 pass last year, but many of them were glorified hand-offs in the previous spread system, as he only averaged 6 yards per reception. On the bright side, I have heard of him, which is more than I can say as we proceed further down the rankings.
Incoming Freshmen: Alonzo Agwuenu (JC transfer), Josiah Blandin
7. Utah - DeVonte Christopher, Reggie Dunn, Drew Anderson, Kenneth Scott, Kendrick Moeai
Christopher is a talented player and returns as the leading receiver, but in reality he's the fourth or fifth option in the offense, all behind handing the ball to John White several times. The Utes thought they had help coming in the form of Baylor transfer Josh Gordon, but he appears to have smoked himself out of a college football career.
Incoming Freshmen: Bryan Allen, Delshawn McClellon, Jake Jackson (TE)
8. UCLA - Shaquelle Evans, Devin Lucien, Ricky Marvray, Jerry Johnson, Jerry Rice, Jr., Joseph Fauria
This is another group where there is a need to replace the top production, this time in the form of Nelson Rosario. Joseph Fauria returns as the leading receiver and should be one of the top tight ends in the conference. After him, there is a great deal of inexperience, but a pretty good amount of talent. Evans and Lucien, in particular were very highly rated coming out of high school. Not to mention, when Jerry Rice is in your receiving corps, you're probably pretty good.
Incoming Freshman: Jordan Payton, Ahmaad Harris, Javon Williams, Fabian Moreau, Ian Taubler (TE)
9. Oregon - Josh Huff, Daryle Hawkins, Rashaan Vaughn, Justin Hoffman, Devon Blackmon, BJ Kelly, Tacoi Sumler, Colt Lyerla
For whatever reason, the high-powered Oregon offense hasn't cranked out many big name, all-conference type receivers. It's a testament to the quality of their running game and the way they spread the ball around they haven't needed them. The leading receiver last season, in terms of yards, was none other than De'Anthony Thomas, but I already covered him in the running back rankings. Huff should be the top target among receivers, but Lyerla might very well lead the team in catches taking over for David Paulson (unless a running back does). Blackmon, Kelly, Sumler and Vaughn were big time recruits in the class of 2011, but they're all -- you guessed it -- unproven. Also, you're crazy if you don't thing I'm calling Sumler, "Taco".
Incoming Freshmen: Chance Allen, Bralon Addison, Dwayne Stanford, Pharoah Brown (TE), Evan Baylis (TE)
10. Stanford - Ty Montgomery, Drew Terrell, Jemari Roberts, Jamal-Rashad Patterson, Levine Toilolo
A huge chunk of Stanford's passing game will be plying their trade in the NFL this fall. Montgomery and Toilolo bring back the most production, but with breaking in a new quarterback and the way Stanford wants to run, it's hard to expect a great deal from this group. Once again, there are some highly touted groups in this bunch, but it's a difficult thing to highly rate a bunch of guys who spent most of their careers so far watching a lot of running and play-action throws to tight ends.
11. Arizona - Dan Buckner, Austin Hill, Terrence Miller, Garic Wharton, Drew Robinson, Michael Cooper
Regarding the players listed next to "Arizona" above...."Who are six guys who have never been in my kitchen?" I've gotta be honest, I just don't know much about these fellas, other than they are not Juron Criner.
Incoming Freshmen: Adam Hall, DeWayne Peace, Derrick Rainey, Travis Cobb, Richard Morrison, Jack Baucus and Terrence Miller (TE's)
12. Colorado - Tyler McCulloch, Jarrod Darden, Nelson Spruce, Dustin Ebner, Nick Kasa
Sorry, Buff fans. I really want to have you not in 12th place for something and I thought you'd be OK here, but then Paul Richardson blew out his ACL so here we are again.