There’s a lot of talk about quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference this season. But everyone knows that the quarterback can’t win games by himself. Somebody’s got to be out there catching all of those passes. Who’s that going to be in the upcoming season?
Top Five Returning SEC Wide Receivers In 2018
The SEC and the wide receiver position haven’t seen to go well together lately. The SEC is more about hard-nosed, smash mouth football. Freakishly athletic defensive linemen, quick, hard hitting linebackers, and All-Universe running backs have ruled the roost in this conference for almost two decades. Meanwhile, across the football landscape, the wide receiver position has become the poster child for the prima dona football player.
Not here. Not with these guys. Here are the top five returning SEC wide receivers in 2018.
5. Jauan Jennings, Tennessee:
Jennings sat out 2017 after breaking his wrist in the season opening win against Georgia Tech. Of course, it was a harbinger of things to come. And when he finally returned to health, he was summarily kicked off the team by interim head coach Brady Hoke for an ill-advised and quite animated tirade that he posted to social media. Jennings’ 2016 season centered around two highlight reel plays: the Hail Mary catch against Georgia and the crushing touchdown on Florida after beating Teez Tabor.
But its not his numbers that make Jennings so valuable. It’s his influence in the locker room. He isn’t exactly a leader; he’s more of the soul of the team. He’s not going to give direction and guidance to his peers, but he will get them motivated. He’ll have a tough time keeping that locker room in high spirits this season, but if anyone can do it, it’ll be Jennings.
4. Ryan Davis, Auburn:
Auburn fans love Davis’ consistency. He’s a diminutive slot receiver that plays in the “Z” position in Gus Malzahn‘s offense, so he’s rarely going to be featured guy. But he’s invaluable on first down, making 40% of his receptions in that situation. On third downs, he has an average of 14 yards per catch. His statistical splits are very well balanced. His 84 receptions led the entire SEC last season.
With Auburn losing some its running game prowess from 2017, there will be more pressure on highly touted quarterback Jarrett Stidham to carry the offense. If he’s smart, he’ll look for Davis yearly and often.
3. Emanuel Hall, Missouri:
Hall’s numbers from 2017 were impressive. He had 33 catches for 817 yards and eight touchdowns. While that might seem a little low, fans must remember he split receptions with J’Mon Moore and Johnathan Johnson. Of course, the 24.76 yards per catch is impressive no matter who you’re splitting time with. With Moore departed, Hall figures to be the primary beneficiary of Drew Lock‘s downfield passing attack. If Hall can get 50% of the catches that Moore got and maintain something close to his YPC average from last season, he’ll post some monster numbers.
At 6’3″, 200 pounds, he’s got the perfect size to be the vertical deep threat in the Tigers’ high powered offense. He’s got the speed, as well. With Lock under center, and Hall and Johnathan Johnson on the edges, defensive coaches are going to lose a lot of sleep this season.
2. Deebo Samuel, South Carolina:
If Jennings’ value lies in the intangibles, and Davis’ value is in his consistency, South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel’s value is his versatility and athleticism. Injuries have plagued Samuel over the last two seasons. He played in ten games in 2016 and only three last season. Essentially, he has one season’s worth of stats over the past two years. Over those past two seasons, he’s collected 74 receptions, 1,033 receiving yards, and four receiving touchdowns. But he’s also added seven rushing touchdowns, three return touchdowns, and a passing touchdown.
You can’t have much more versatility than that. He provides a unique dynamic to the Gamecocks offense that no other player in league affords their team. He is South Carolina’s “X Factor” for the upcoming campaign. If he can stay healthy, the Gamecocks have a chance to make some pundits eat crow.
1. A.J. Brown, Ole Miss:
It’s a matter of simple numbers here. Last season Brown led the conference in reception yards (1,252) and receiving touchdowns (11). He was second in receptions (75). That’s while playing with unheralded quarterback Jordan Ta’amu for a team on NCAA sanctions, reduced scholarships, and no opportunity for a bowl game. Ta’amu will be better this year and the Rebels will be wanting to see out there punishment in style.
Brown’s statistics are slightly skewed to home performances and inferior competition. If Matt Luke’s squad is to truly compete in the SEC West, they’ll need Brown to match his numbers with consistency across the board. If he does, he could be in serious consideration for the Biletnikoff Award at season’s end.
Johnathan Johnson, Missouri: There’s going to be plenty of Drew Lock passes to go around.
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama: No team in the nation does the “Next Man Up” drill better than the Crimson Tide.
Also, see our other SEC positional rankings:
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