Fitzgerald: Best Big East receiver ever?

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
If you've been watching the NFL playoffs, then you know that Larry Fitzgerald is the breakout star of the postseason thus far. Lots of analysts are now saying that the fifth-year Arizona Cardinals wideout has sprung to the head of the class among pro receivers.

None of this comes as a surprise to Pittsburgh Panthers fans, who watched Fitzgerald dominate in college during his two seasons on campus.

So the question I bring to you here today is this: Is Fitzgerald the best receiver in Big East history?

We had some fun during the season with the discussion about whether Pat White was the league's greatest player ever. It's easier to have these debates in the Big East, since the conference has been around for fewer than 20 years.

The case against Fitzgerald would be that he only played 26 games as a collegian. But there's never been a better receiving season in the league than what he produced in 2003, when he caught 92 passes for a ridiculous 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns.

His 34 career touchdowns are still the league record despite his short career. He also finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2003 (behind Oklahoma's system-quarterback Jason White -- any chance we could get a recount?) and won the Walter Camp Award as the nation's best player.

Put it this way: Kenny Britt just compiled the second-highest season total for receiving yards in Big East history -- and he was 301 yards short of Fitzgerald's 2003 mark. Britt is the league's career leader in receiving yards, but his 17 touchdowns are half of Fitzgerald's total in one more season.

Other top candidates for the honor would include Antonio Bryant, Fitzgerald's predecessor as Pitt's No. 1 wideout; Miami's Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Santana Moss; Louisville's Harry Douglas; Syracuse's Marvin Harrison; and West Virginia's Chris Henry.

I think it's a slam dunk to put Fitzgerald No. 1. If I had to rank the top six, it would look something like this (remember, we're talking college years only):

  1. Fitzgerald

  2. Bryant

  3. Britt

  4. Harrison

  5. Moss

  6. Douglas

(Whew, that was more difficult than I thought. It's hard to imagine that I left Johnson and Wayne off there. Has any other league produced more top-flight receivers than the Big East in recent years?)

Anyway, that's my take. Do you agree that Fitzgerald is the best Big East receiver ever? If not, for whom would you vote? Hit me up with your thoughts and we'll hash it out before next week's Super Bowl.