A league that has long been known for its running games, the SEC is also a place you can find some quality passing games.
That will be no different in 2017.
This week we’re looking at the best position groups in the conference, and today we assess the pass-catchers -- receivers and tight ends.
Best of the best: Alabama doesn’t have the most experience at this position, but the Crimson Tide have the most talent to choose from. Leading the way is one of the SEC’s best receivers, Calvin Ridley, who over the last two seasons has caught more passes (161) than anyone in the SEC except Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk (163). Jerry Jeudy, a true freshman who had a great performance on A-Day (five catches, 134 yards, two touchdowns), already looks like a star in the making. And 6-foot-5 senior Cam Sims has been doing well this offseason and looks like he’ll find himself a role, potentially in the slot. Veteran receiver Robert Foster, who was slowed by an injury in 2015 and didn’t have a strong 2016, is someone who looks like he could finally break out this season. And that doesn’t include burner Xavian Marks, a junior who ripped off a 4.41-second 40-yard dash during spring testing.
Next in line: Florida has a ton of talent returning, led by Antonio Callaway (54 receptions, 721 yards in 2016), who has the fourth-highest receiving yardage total among returning players in the conference. Returning along with Callaway are receivers Brandon Powell (45 catches) and Tyrie Cleveland (21.2 yards per catch) and tight ends DeAndre Goolsby (38 catches) and C’yontai Lewis (18 catches). Florida must figure out who is going to throw the ball to all these players, but if the Gators can find a reliable option, the passing game could blossom nicely in Gainesville.
Don’t sleep on: Missouri and South Carolina. Both SEC East teams are returning quite a bit of production from their 2016 receiving corps. South Carolina gets back Deebo Samuel (783 receiving yards in 2016), Bryan Edwards (590) and tight ends Hayden Hurst (616) and KC Crosby (217). The receiving corps had some depth issues last season, but that should be addressed with a strong group of receivers the Gamecocks hauled in via their 2017 recruiting class, which includes ESPN 300 receiver and early enrollee OrTre Smith. And getting back the tight end duo of Hurst and Crosby -- who combined for eight touchdowns -- is huge. Sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley has no shortage of options to work with this season.
Missouri returns its top four receivers, including the conference’s leading pass-catcher from last year, J’Mon Moore (1,012 yards, eight touchdowns). Moore is joined by Dimetrios Mason (587 yards, three touchdowns), Jonathon Johnson (435 yards, two touchdowns) and Emanuel Hall (307 yards, two touchdowns). In its second year under offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, and with veteran quarterback Drew Lock returning, that quartet could see an increase in production in 2017.
Lastly, don't forget Texas A&M, which has the SEC's best receiver (Christian Kirk) and a host of young, unproven talent, including potential star freshman Jhamon Ausbon.