Only two wide receivers have won the Heisman Trophy (1987 Tim Brown, 1991 Desmond Howard). In 2011, there are three who could emerge as contenders.
Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
The 6-foot-4-inch junior burst on to the national scene last season with 1,517 receiving yards. More impressive was the fact that he dropped just one pass.
In 2010, Jeffery had 88 receptions and 61 of them gained at least 10 yards. There have been only five instances over the past five seasons when a receiver had at least 70 receptions and gained 10 yards or more at a higher rate. Compare that to former Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, the fourth pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He gained 10 yards or more on just 56 percent of his receptions last season.
Jeffery’s production is helped by a dynamic teammate who keeps defenses honest, running back Marcus Lattimore. In 2010, South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia completed 84 percent of his passes -- and averaged 19.6 yards per completion -- when targeting Jeffery after a play-action fake. Those numbers could go even higher this season as respect for Lattimore grows. (Lattimore will be featured in our look at running backs on Tuesday.)
Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
He returns to Oklahoma for his senior season to, he said, "win more championships and break every record possible as a receiver.” As a junior, he hauled in an NCAA-best 131 passes.
This season, Broyles’ numbers could be mind boggling.
Last season, he averaged more than nine catches per game and did not drop one ball. In his last two seasons, Broyles has 29 touchdown receptions, 20 of them have been for 10 yards or more. Both figures are tops in college football.
There are two obstacles for Broyles to overcome. Oklahoma’s running game could be a question mark with the loss of leading rusher DeMarco Murray. Also, Broyles isn’t the only Heisman candidate on Oklahoma: QB Landry Jones (who will be featured on Thursday) finished second in FBS last season with 38 touchdown passes. The only receiver in the last decade to finish in the top five of Heisman voting ahead of his quarterback was Larry Fitzgerald in 2003.
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
The word that comes to mind to describe Blackmon on the field is monster. He's a nightmare for defensive coordinators with his ability to turn screen plays into big gains, and also beat a secondary down field.
Last season, Blackmon averaged 10.8 yards on receptions made at or behind the line of scrimmage. He also caught 63.6 percent of passes that targeted him 15 yards or more downfield. The ability to turn any throw into a big gain helped Blackmon lead FBS last season in receiving yards per game.
What could possibly haunt Blackmon in 2011? He dropped five passes last season, which may not seem like a lot. But it is when you consider that Jeffery had just one drop last season and Broyles had none.