Now that we’re past ranking the best quarterbacks and running backs in the Pac-12, we have to consider the rest of the offensive skill positions. Wide receiver isn’t as stacked as the other positions, but there are legitimate stars in the conference, including within your Colorado Buffaloes.
12. Oregon State — Isaiah Hodgins, Timmy Hernandez, Trevon Bradford
The Beavers have now ranked dead last in our QB, RB and WR power rankings, to which we apologize, especially to Building the Dam. But really there’s nothing we can do. Not only did the Beavers graduate a semi-decent QB, but they lose two of their three leading receivers — only Timmy Hernandez is back and he probably shouldn’t be the best receiver on a major college football team. Isaiah Hodgins looks promising, though, so there’s that!
11. Utah — Sioasi Mariner, Britain Covey, Demari Simpkins
I honestly couldn’t tell you a Utah wide receiver’s name except for Darren Carrington over the last few years. They aren’t exactly known for opening it up through the air. The Utes usually stick to the ground and use the passing game as a way to take shots downfield. This year should be no different with Zack Moss coming back. Britain Covey, back from a mission, is an important addition in the slot that should be a walking first down, and the big body of Mariner should be nice to have on the outside. Demari Simpkins is a speedster that can stretch the field.
10. Arizona — Shun Brown, Tony Ellison, Shawn Poindexter/Cedric Peterson, Bryce Wolma
Arizona is in an interesting position. They return four starters from last year’s group and a very exciting young tight end. That’s the good news. The problem is, none of the players returning have the top end potential of most others on this list. Shun Brown is one of the best in the slot, but at a very generous listing of 5’10, he may be a little small to carry the load as he did last year (out of necessity). Tony Ellison led last year in yards, partially because he can run fast enough to get under Khalil Tate bombs. I don’t expect that to change this year. Poindexter and Peterson expect to fill the other outside receiver role as a most possession oriented player. But in reality, they are the fourth or fifth option in this option. Wolma proved himself as a freshman in this offense. He should get a lot more than 28 catches this season.
9. Oregon — Brenden Schooler, Dillon Mitchell, Johnny Johnson III
Oregon hit the total reset button on the wide receiving corps when Mark Helfrich made his unceremonious exit. Many familiar faces left last year, with the one recognizable name, Charles Nelson, taking a backseat at the end of the year. This relatively has speed, an Oregon staple, but also the size that I love to see. Dillon Mitchell is the ringleader, leading the team last year in yards. He’s a good all-around option. Brenden Schooler is a more traditional possession receiver on the outside for the Ducks, and Johnny Johnson is a slot wideout. This unit also added Wake Forest grad transfer Tabari Hines who should play inside. The top end talent here isn’t what we’re used to for Oregon, but given the presumed shift to a more run-heavy offense, they won’t be asked to do as much.
8. UCLA — Theo Howard, Demetric Felton, Caleb Wilson (TE)
UCLA’s offense is going to look very different from a year ago. Besides the obvious adjustments that Chip Kelly will install, the Bruins will have plenty of fresh faces, particularly in the passing game. Josh Rosen is gone, as are leading receivers Darren Andrews and Jordan Lasley. Even with younger guys without major experience, they have a solid bunch. Theo Howard has elite speed and he flashed promise last year. Dymond Lee is a converted quarterback, but UCLA expects big things from him. Demetric Felton should be a good slot receiver. Away from the actual receivers, UCLA’s best ball-catcher will be tight end Caleb Wilson, who might be the best in college football at that position. Watch for him to be a primary target, especially when they play Colorado.
7. California — Kanawai Noa, Vic Wharton, Jordan Duncan
California took the biggest hit of anyone this offseason when star wideout Demetris Robertson decided to transfer back to Georgia, his home state. Robertson was one of the best wide receivers in the Pac-12, and Cal fans were eagerly awaiting his return from injury. At least they learned how to play without him last year. Kanawai Noa killed CU last year, and his big frame makes him a great red zone option. Vic Wharton, the Tennessee transfer, is sneaky athletic, a gym rat, and a great motor — he could be Cal’s Julian Edelman. All of this to say, he’s white. He has a great YPC average and should continue to be the top option for Ross Bowers.
6. Washington State — Kyle Sweet, Davontavean Martin, Dezmon Patmon
As long as Mike Leach is head coach at Washington State, they will have great receivers. You could put the staff of Ralphie Report in that offense and we will move the chains consistently and look damn good during it. Luckily for the Cougars, they don’t have to go that far. Punter Kyle Sweet continues to play in the slot in the Wes Welker role, while Davontavean “Tay” Martin and Dezmon Patmon form an athletic duo out wide. Leach rarely ever sticks to just three receivers, so look for “Last Chance U” star Calvin Jackson to make an instant impact and Renard Bell to do well on the inside.
5. Washington — Chico McClatcher, Marquis Spiker, Ty Jones
In Jake Browning’s illustrious career, he has been fortunate to have thrown passes to John Ross and Dante Pettis, two elite targets who looked like grown adults playing against middle schoolers. Now that Pettis is gone, Washington will rely predominantly on McClatcher, a tiny speed demon who is poised to break out after returning from a broken ankle. He’s not as fast as Ross — no one is — but he has the ability to create magic in the open field. Flanking him will be Spiker and Jones, two giant underclassmen oozing potential. This will probably be the lowest Washington ranks in this particular list for a long time.
4. Colorado — Juwann Winfree, Laviska Shenault, Jay MacIntyre, etc.
The Buffaloes may not have the star power of USC or Arizona State, but they rank among the best in the Pac-12 because of their ridiculous depth. They have six players who will see significant time at receiver. Winfree will be the primary target and Shenault is the likeliest underclassmen to break out, but we should expect an egalitarian system for the Buffs. Watch for them to platoon their receivers in groups of three, which will be set up for them to run by tired defensive backs in the second half.
3. Stanford — J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Trent Irwin, Colby Parkinson (TE), Kaden Smith (TE)
Perhaps it’s ironic to rank Stanford this highly considering they rarely use their receivers, but the Cardinal’s receiving corps is still excellent no matter how often they’re thrown to. Arcega-Whiteside is huge and excels at boxing out smaller defenders for the ball — he looks a bit like Devon Cajuste out there. Trent Irwin is good enough to garner attention from the defense, although he doesn’t have big-play potential for a second receiver. Those receivers are good, not great, but Stanford is this high because of their tight ends. Kaden Smith is already an accomplished receivers and he’s expected to be one of the best tight ends in the nation. Colby Parkinson enters his sophomore season with potential to be an elite weapon thanks to his size (6’7, 240-lbs.) and fluid athleticism. They’re growing some big boys out on the Farm.
2. Arizona State — N’Keal Harry, Kyle Williams, Ryan Jenkins
No respect to Kyle Williams or Ryan Jenkins — both of whom are quite good! — but we’re here because of N’Keal Harry. For someone with Harry’s size (6’4, 220-lbs.), athleticism and skillset, it’s impossible to not be an elite receiver. He’s an absolute nightmare to defend and he’s only getting better. If you were impressed by his statline last season — 82 catches, 1,142 yards, 8 TDs — he’s a year better and has been building better chemistry with Manny Wilkins.
1. USC — Michael Pittman, Tyler Vaughns, Josh Imatorbhebhe, Amon-ra St. Brown
Is there a more talented crew in the country than USC’s impossible lineup of five-stars? The four names listed here are likely the top contributors, but there’s still Josh Falo, Tyler Petite, and Daniel Imatorbhebhe at tight end. And Velus Jones and Randal Grimes out wide. It truly is sickening how much talent the Trojans get to waste on the bench. Vaughns is my favorite receiver to watch in the conference. He is such a smooth athlete in and out of breaks and he’s always good for a spectacular catch. Freshman Amon-ra St. Brown is a physical freak who should box out every CB matched up against him. It’s just not fair how stacked USC’s receiving corps is.