On Monday, we looked at potential 1,000-yard rushers in the Pac-12. Today, we turn our attention to the pass-catchers.
Last season, there were six wide receivers in the league who had at least 1,000 receiving yards:
JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC, 1,454
Gabe Marks, Washington State, 1,192
Jordan Payton, UCLA, 1,106
Devin Lucien, Arizona State, 1,075
Nelson Spruce, Colorado, 1,053
Dom Williams, Washington State, 1,040
The top two are back. But the other four are gone, which means others will have to rise for the league to match last year’s numbers. For as much passing as there is in the Pac-12, there is also a lot of distribution. That means two or three guys per team could end up with 500-700 yards.
As in our position group reviews, we’ll assign each team as “great shape,” “good shape” or “we’ll see” when it comes to having a 1,000-yard receiver in 2016. On Wednesday, we’ll project 3,000-yard passers.
We are working under the assumption that all the players mentioned stay healthy.
USC: There is no reason to think USC’s new quarterback won’t lean on Smith-Schuster often. He is one of the best in the country. Although his numbers might dip slightly with the new QB (see Marqise Lee in 2013), he should still have outstanding production.
Washington State: The Cougars have had at least one receiver gain 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons. It's difficult to imagine Gabe Marks won’t match or exceed last year’s production with quarterback Luke Falk a year stronger and wiser in the system. Could this team have two guys again break 1K? River Cracraft?
Arizona: This is another one of those offenses that eats up a ton of yards, but many receivers share the pie. Austin Hill was a 1K receiver in 2012. Cayleb Jones barely cracked 1,000 yards in 2014. I like the headlining trio of Samajie Grant, Nate Phillips and Trey Griffey, who coaches feel is poised for a breakout season. A healthy Anu Solomon will go a long way toward helping one of those receivers get to 1,000 yards.
Oregon: So much will depend on the quarterback. Darren Carrington (609 yards last year) and Dwayne Stanford (463) bring experience and leadership to the group, but this is always a run-first offense. No receiver hit 1,000 yards last season (the departed Bralon Addison was the closest at 804), and the year before that, Byron Marshall squeaked it out with 1,003. A 1,000-yard receiver would be nice, but it’s not a necessity to make this offense go.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils have had a 1,000-yard receiver the past three seasons, and there is talent in the receiving corps, headlined by Tim White and Cam Smith. The “we’ll see” rating has more to do with who is going to be quarterback, the rebuilt offensive line and how new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey distributes the football. The potential is there (as is touted freshman N'Keal Harry), but too many unknowns linger.
Cal: Believe it or not, the Bear Raid has yet to produce a 1,000-yard receiver. Again, this is a question of distribution, not talent. Six Bears had at least 400 yards receiving last season. It will be interesting to see what new quarterback Davis Webb has to work with and whether touted recruits Melquise Stovall and Demetris Robertson make immediate impacts.
Colorado: The Buffs have enjoyed a 1,000-yard receiver in each of the past three seasons. But is there a Paul Richardson or Nelson Spruce in Boulder right now? If there is, who is going to get him the ball? There are too many questions to determine yet if the streak will go to four straight years.
Oregon State: It’s been a couple years since the Beavers had a 1,000-yard receiver, with the latest being Biletnikoff winner Brandin Cooks. The year before that, Cooks and Markus Wheaton both hit 1,000. Jordan Villamin (660) and Victor Bolden (461) are back, but much will depend on quarterback Darell Garretson.
Stanford: The Cardinal haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since … wait for it … pre-Y2K! Troy Walters (1,508) was the latest to do so in 1999. Obviously, things have worked out OK for the Cardinal, who have won the league three of the past four seasons. Running back Christian McCaffrey was last year’s receiving leader, with 645 yards. If it ain’t broke …
UCLA: Quarterback Josh Rosen is going to get his yards (and we’ll talk about that Thursday in the 3,000-yard passer post). How much of that gets divvied up, however, remains to be seen. With a lot of receivers, including converted defensive back Ishmael Adams, vying for the top spot, a single receiver getting to 1K might be challenging. This has the makings of a good corps. Accordingly, many guys will probably see the ball.
Utah: Dres Anderson just squeaked over the 1,000-yard mark in 2013 (1,002), but the Utes aren’t known as a passing powerhouse. They annually rank toward the bottom of the league’s air attacks. With a mostly untested receiving corps flanking an unknown quarterback, it’d be wise to take the under on a 1,000-yard receiver for the Utes.
Washington: It has been a while since the Huskies had a 1,000-yard receiver; Jermaine Kearse (1,005) in 2010 was the most recent. While much of the offense will flow through running back Myles Gaskin, look for sophomore quarterback Jake Browning to make big strides in Year 2. That could mean more shots down the field. If John Ross is back stronger from injury, he could be the guy.