We're now two weeks into our ranking of the SEC's units, and we've already seen both offensive and defensive lines HOTLY debated as we near the one month mark until the college football season. Sadly, the last month (or so) is always the longest, but fortunately our rankings still have you covered right up until the first game week at the end of August. This week we're moving from the inside to the outside, where the playmakers make their living. This week's SEC unit rankings focuses on wide receivers and tight ends.
Last week's D-Line rankings saw Auburn claim a top two spot for the second consecutive week? Who will occupy the top spots in the receiving corps unit rankings? Let's jump right in. Here are your SEC football WRs/TEs rankings from SB Nation's SEC bloggers.
Key returnees/losses via SDS
1. Alabama (6 First Place Votes, 1.6 Average)
Returning Starters/Contributors: WR Amari Cooper, WR DeAndrew White, TE OJ Howard
Key Losses: WR Kevin Norwood
-- Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White, Christian Jones, and OJ Howard all return. In fact, six of Bama's top eight receivers return. Filthy. Coker just needs to be decent and they'll put up big numbers.
-- Amari Cooper is explosive... when he plays. Yet, he's struggled to stay on the field. And who emerges after that? Deandrew White has been okay. The rest? Meh both in production and talent. O.J. Howard is the exception to that rule, but Lane Kiffin tends to ignore the TE. Not to mention, the loss of McCarron has me begging, what do they do without the safety blanket that was Kevin Norwood? It's the one spot Bama has not recruited exceptionally.
-- Amari Cooper and O.J. Howard are beasts and can be game changers. We'll just have to wait and see how well Coker gets the ball to them.
-- Two words: Amari Cooper.
-- Amari Cooper, O.J. Howard, and the Crimsonettes are about as talented and well-rounded a unit as you'll find in college football, but it's utterly mystifying why any top notch wide receiver recruit would ever want to go to Alabama. Although the run/pass ratio evened out a bit last year, Saban clearly prefers a heavily run-oriented offense, and you know that Satan's smallest minion expects high effort downfield blocking on every play. So if you're a highly rated receiver, why would you want to bang heads all game long for the privilege of catching the occasional wounded duck from a weak-armed frat boy with Bama-Bangs? Sure, some of you will say the only thing that matters is winning. Try whispering that to yourself during the post game press conference: Golden Boy is going to give all the glory to a higher power in his pristine, untouched uniform while you're trying to ducktape what's left of your uniform together so that your internal organs don't show on television.
-- O.J. Howard is a ridiculously talented TE, as is Amari Cooper at the WR position. Stop me if you've heard this before - Alabama is talented in this unit
-- They have the single best receiver. That counts for a lot.
2. Georgia (2 First Place Votes, 2.6 Average)
Returning Starters/Contributors: WR Michael Bennett, WR Chris Conley
Key Losses: TE Arthur Lynch
-- Chris Conley is great and Michael Bennett has proven reliable. What could take this corps even higher is if Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley step up and stay healthy. If that's the case they'll be a borderline top three receiver unit.
-- No one returns a better 1-2 punch than Bennett and Conley. Depth is a concern, but they've got the starting slots covered.
-- Getting Malcolm Mitchell back is big for UGA and the Force is definitely with Chris Conley.
-- Georgia returns so much talent for 2014.
-- A haircut can say a lot about a man, and Mark Richt's haircut speaks volumes about a stolid, unimaginative middle manager who manages to squander an unbelievable amount of talent every single year.
-- So many guys have been No. 1 targets at one point or another. Just a terrifying group when healthy.
-- Everyone knows talented receiver/actor/director Chris Conley. But Georgia returns a half dozen experienced receivers from 2013's explosive unit while adding speedy freshmen Isaiah McKenzie, Rico Johnson, and Shakenneth Williams. Jay Rome, if healthy, is one of the top 4 tight ends in the league to boot.
3. Auburn (2 First Place Votes, 3.4 Average)
Returning Starters/Contributors: WR Sammie Coates, WR D'haquille Williams
-- Sammie Coates returns along with most of the rest of the receiver corps. Auburn also has former number one JUCO receiver D'haquille Williams. Nick Marshall's improvement witnessed in the spring game should match the improvement made by his receivers.
-- Sammie Coates may be the only target that's done big things, but Ricardo Louis, Quan Bray and C.J. Uzomah have all logged a lot of snaps and really know their roles in this offense. And Coates was so important to this team last year. Auburn didn't make a lot of plays down the field, but when they did it was to him.
-- Sammie Coates and D'haquille Williams provide Auburn with what I believe to be one of the best 1-2 combinations in the country. Then there's TE CJ Uzomah, who is excellent at making big-time clutch catches in traffic. On top of that there's Ricardo Louis, Quan Bray, Marcus Davis, and don't count out Jaylon Denson. Before his injury in the LSU game, Denson was one of Auburn's best blocking WRs. In Auburn's offense that can be just as big as catching the ball. I have no idea if freshmen Myron Burton will redshirt or not, but if it doesn't then he could be someone to keep an eye on, as well. This is an extremely talented WR corps. Maybe one of the best Auburn has ever had. Now we'll just have to see if Marshall's passing has improved.
-- Big, physical receivers who will get a lot of looks in this offense.
-- Sammie Coates and the gang are the Chick Fil-A of SEC wide receivers: they aren't asked to do much, but what they do do is superb.
-- Sammie Coates is one of the SEC's best returning to a WR corps that is underrated due to Auburn's run-first philosophy. Underestimating them in 2014 could hurt a few teams along the way.
4. Texas A&M (4.7 Average)
Returning Starters/Contributors: WR Malcome Kennedy
Key Losses: WR Mike Evans, WR Derel Walker
-- Mike Evans who? A lot of talent returns. Malcome Kennedy and a Ricky Seals-Jones is the next A&M receiver bound for the NFL's first round. Cameron Clear also returns. I'm anxious to see how the highly-rated freshmen look i.e. Speedy Noil.
-- Malcome Kennedy caught 60 passes last year, so I imagine he'll step into the No. 1 role, but after him it's a lot of younger guys that were big-time recruits but haven't proven anything on the field yet.
-- They have loads of potential, but the only proven commodity is Malcolme Kennedy. If Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil are as good as advertised, they vault up the list.
-- I see the Aggies this season sort of like I do LSU. The talent is undoubtedly there, it's just that they are replacing a lot (Mike Evans especially).
-- If Cam Clear's football career follows the narrative arc of his career in crime, expect him to quickly and efficiently secure the goods, but fumble them back to the original owners in a cloud of tears and recriminations. They also have non-felons Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil.
5. Ole Miss (5.2 Average)
Returning Starters/Contributors: WR Laquon Treadwell
Key Losses: WR Donte Moncrief
-- Laquon Treadwell is arguably the best receiver in the SEC, and it sounds like Evan Engram is also healthy. Good targets for Dr. Bo along with veteran Vince Sanders.
-- Losing Moncrief hurts, but Treadwell is ready to take that next step. He's a Round 1 NFL talent and managed to snag 72 passes a freshman. Sure, his YPC wasn't great, but that shows his dependability. He'll be a 1st Team All-SEC contender and draw enough attention for others to produce.
-- Laquon Treadwell is a dangerous talent and could be spectacular for Ole Miss this year.
-- If Ole Miss managed to hang on to Donte Moncrief, this would be nearly the best receiving corps in the SEC. Still, with Laquon Treadwell, Vince Sanders, and Quincy Adeboyejo returning, there's gobs of potential for success.
-- Hey Laquon, don't worry about defenses keying on you after Moncrief and Logan done R-U-N-N-O-F-T and left you without any help. Dr. Bo doesn't need a decoy, and neither do you.
-- Losing Donte Moncrief hurts, but returning the extremely dangerous Laquon Treadwell helps sooth that pain. This could be a really good unit for Ole Miss this season.
-- Treadwell was basically a glorified tight end last year. Will have to make more big plays.
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
6. South Carolina (6.3 Average)
Returning Starters/Contributors: WR Shaq Roland
Key Losses: WR Bruce Ellington
-- Should be a very solid receiver corps with Damiere Byrd, Pharoh Cooper, and Shaq Roland.
-- Tons of production and talent returning. Dylan Thompson has a bigger arm than Connor Shaw, and while he may be less efficient, he may produce bigger plays. Damiere Byrd is a big play threat, and I like Shaq Roland, too.
-- The Gamecocks have some of the best wide receivers you'll ever see in practice. Of course that's mostly because they're playing against a mixture of inexperience and hot garbage at the cornerback position after hotshot recruits Wesley Green and Chris Lammons forgot that they had to meet some basic standards to enroll at South Carolina. I know! I'm just as shocked as you are! To be perfectly fair, there's probably a pair of admissions waivers with "Green" and "Lammons" written on them underneath a pile of Coors Light cans on Steve Spurrier's desk in the football offices, but it's the summer and it's five o'clock somewhere so why don't y'all piss on off until August because the HBC is trying to keep a buzz and play a few holes.
-- Man oh man, was Bruce Ellington good.
7. MSU (6.5 Average)
Returning Starters/Contributors: WR De'Runnya Wilson, WR Robert Johnson, WR Jameon Lewis, TE Malcolm Johnson
-- Jameon Lewis is a dangerous weapon in space, and Malcolm Johnson and Robert Johnson also return. Sophomore De'Runnya Wilson put up solid numbers last season as a freshman.
-- Jameon Lewis is a good slot receiver that can kind of play the Percy Harvin role in Dan Mullen's offense and do a bit of everything. And he's partnered with a group of seniors that all know their roles in Robert Johnson and Malcolm Johnson. Plus a big target in De'Runnya Wilson.
-- State actually returns the second most receiving yardage this season in the SEC. Jameon Lewis and De'Runnya Wilson are a pretty good combo, and Malcolm Johnson is a formidable tight end.
-- MSU returns every weapon off of a passing attack that was really good, at least by MSU standards. If Dak Prescott can stay healthy in 2014, this unit could finish near the top in the SEC in terms of production. Don't sleep on De'Runnya Wilson.
-- Following his release from prison (Florida), a small-time con man (Dan Mullen) in debt to some demanding superiors (Cowbells fans) puts together a team for one last job: a meticulously planned heist targeting his old nemesis (Nick Saban). He recruits a steady and reliable right-hand man (Robert Johnson), a young but inconsistent new guy (De'Runnya Wilson), a specialist in getting open (Jameon Lewis), a talented but a wise-cracking hothead (Malcolm Johnson), and an elderly expert in safety valves (LaDarius Perkins, making a non-NCAA sanctioned cameo). Will only a limited amount of time to plan and no room for error, can the Fantastic Five put it all together? Or will they fall victim to a threat no one saw coming (Boss Hogg, played by Bert Bielema)?
8. Tennessee (7 Average)
Returning Starters/Contributors: WR Marquez North, WR Pig Howard
-- Maybe too high when taking into account their youth, but I can't help but think based on pure talent none rival Marquez North or Josh Malone. Malone enrolled early so he should hit the ground faster than most freshmen.
-- Pig Howard, Jason Croom, and Johnathon Johnson also return. UT has quality and quantity at the position.
-- Bold call here, but I think Marquez North flashed alpha dog receiver qualities at times last season. Pair him with incoming freshman Josh Malone and a solid young crop of guys and I think they are in business. The bigger question is can they find stable QB play. I think Worley, as a SR, will deliver enough to make this a dangerous group.
-- Don't worry, Tennessee fans. It's not like your quarterback (whoever that will be) would have had time to get the ball to them anyway.
-- Didn't lose a single player on the two-deep, and added freshman phenom Josh Malone to go with Freshman All-SEC Marquez North and Pig Howard. WRU is back; deal with it, nerds.
-- Really looking forward to more Marquez North highlights this year, if Tennessee can just find someone who can get him the ball.
-- Couldn't bail out shaky QBs last year. We'll see what happens with experience.
-- The only downside to North and Malone is that neither is Cordarelle Patterson. That's not their fault, but it is Butch Jones' problem.
9. LSU (8.0 Average)
Returning Starters/Contributors: WR Travis Dural, WR Malachi Dupree
Key Losses: WR Odell Beckham Jr., WR Jarvis Landry
-- Huge hit when Landry and Beckham left early for the NFL but LSU returns former blue chips Travin Dural and John Diarse with a year of experience. Toss in three of the very best prep receivers/tight end in the 2014 Class in Malachi Dupree, Trey Quinn, and Jacory Washington for seasoning and you got a good base roux.
-- I'm going to go on record that this group will definitely be in the top five by the end of the year. I think Travin Dural is ready to become a go-to guy, I love the potential of the tight ends (yes, I know), and I think the young receivers here are more equipped to step in quickly than the typical freshman. That said, I just can't grade them higher until they show something on the field.
-- They have Malichi Dupree and Trey Quinn coming in, which could give them an immediate boost this year.
-- Something something Les Miles coaches 'em up.
-- LSU is replacing a lot so they are ranked a bit lower, but LSU is LSU so by the end of the year they'll have two guys that would have shown how obsolete preseason rankings are.
-- They still have plenty of former big-time recruits, but that was a lot to lose.
10. Florida (10.5 Average)
-- The receiver production increased last year compared to 2012, and there is talent at the top there's not much hope for overall depth. I think Demarcus Robinson is the man this season, but a more diversified aerial attack is a year away development-wise.
-- Just stunning to see the school of the Fun & Gun just look so weak at this position. Part of the reason I'm not a big believer in the Jeff Driskel renaissance is that I also don't know who he has to throw to.
-- Remember when Andre Debose was supposed to be the next Percy Harvin? Even considering the ACL injury, he hasn't really done much. He's got a chance to prove himself under a new offensive coordinator, though Ole Miss fans would encourage Florida fans not to get too excited about Kurt Roper.
-- ERROR: FILE NOT FOUND. DID YOU MEAN "RUN INSIDE ZONE LEFT" ON 3RD AND 12?
-- I'll be interested to see if a new OC helps this unit improve in 2014. Florida always has the athletes, it's just can they utilize them (or get them the ball?)
-- Recruiting rankings have expiration dates.
-- Seeing the Florida receiving corps is like watching True Blood. It's rare that you can spend years watching so many talented people do very little of consequence.
11. Missouri (11.3 Average)
Returning Starters/Contributors: WR Bud Sasser
Key Losses: WR L'Damian Washington, WR Marcus Lucas
-- Lost DGB, L'Damian Washington, and Marcus Lucas. Of Missouri's 31 receiving touchdowns those three accounted for 48% of them. Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt come on down.
-- Lost their top three receivers, including one of the best players in the conference. The Dorial Green-Beckham loss is a killer because it was so unexpected. They went from set to disarray.
-- Last season, they'd have been towards the top.
-- "Just losing too much for me to think they'll be as good [out wide] as they were last season." " cumulative [games played] walked out the door last year. This is an almost complete rebuild." "[The other other Tigers] have quietly had one of the best [groups of skill position players] in the SEC for two seasons, but now they return zero starters and must virtually start from scratch." "If you have to replace all your starters, expect to have a rough time. This is especially true when you're in the SEC. They're going to have to hope they learn quickly before getting into the meat of the schedule." "[The other other Tigers] return no starters among the skill position players." "No starters return. Hope the quarterbacks like [dropped passes]."
-- They still have Sasser and Hunt, but that was a lot to lose.
12. Kentucky (11.4 Average)
Returning Starters/Contributors: WR Ryan Timmons, WR Javess Blue
-- Javess Blue and Ryan Timmons both acquitted themselves well in their first seasons, and will be heavily relied upon by the offense this season. After those two, Kentucky is hoping Alexander Montgomery, Jeff Badet, and Steven Borden (trivia fact: the son of wrestler Sting) produce after their second year in the system, especially Montgomery and Badet coming off injuries. Freshmen receivers will play due to depth, and two of them enrolled early.
-- They quietly return 97 catches, 1065 yards and 8 TDs of production. Not terrible, considering how offensively anemic this team can be. There's no explosive threat, but they can be a steady, consistent group in Lexington.
-- Javess Blue and Karl-Anthony Town combine for a fearsome pass-catching duo, but can they upset the defending intra-mural champion Sigma Nus?
13. Arkansas (12.7 Average)
Returning Starters/Contributors: TE Hunter Henry
Key Losses: WR Javontee Herndon, WR Julian Horton
-- Lost two of the top four receivers on a below average receiver unit. Hunter Henry and Keon Hatcher return, and a healthy Demetrius Wilson will help. A lot of underclassmen will play.
-- Hatcher and Henry are what they are, which isn't erribly great, but it will keep the Hogs from total incompetence.
-- How great are they at run blocking? That's what Bret "American Football" Bielema wants to know.
-- Hunter Henry is the sole reason I'm ranking the Razorbacks ahead of some other schools.
14. Vanderbilt (13.8 Average)
Key Losses: WR Jordan Matthews, WR Jonathan Krause
-- -- One does not simply replace Jordan Matthews. And Jordan Krause graduated. Yeesh.
-- Desperately petitioning to get Jordan Matthews another year of eligibility.
-- They weren't quite Jordan Matthews and bunch of nothing, but they lose the other starters as well. Let's put it like this, Travin Dural had more receiving yards than any returning Vandy player, and they don't have highly touted recruits coming in.
-- Replacing Jordan Matthews will be tough. I'd say impossible for any one WR to do. Vandy's receivers are going to have to step up in a big way.
-- Almost nobody's back from last year.
-- August is the cruelest month, building Units out of new 'croots, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Team boards with spring hype. Winter kept us warm, covering Fields in forgetful snow, feeding A little lie with old TV.
-- No Jordan Matthews :(
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports