Ranking Big 12 No. 1 Wide Receivers
10. Chris Harper (Kansas State)
2011 Stats: 40 REC, 547 YDS, 5 TD
Harper had a dazzling high school career in which he was a star running back, accomplished passer and, of course, effective wide receiver. The Wichita, KS, native played one season at Oregon in 2008 before transferring home to Kansas State. After a redshirt year in 2009, Harper combined for 65 catches and nine touchdowns in 2010 and 2011.
We’re waiting for him to break out as a senior in 2012, but it might be a function of the offense in which he plays. QB Collin Klein set school records en route to tying an NCAA record for QB rushing yards. Bill Snyder’s squad likes to pound away, which leaves Harper as nothing more than an after-thought for opposing defenses.
Photo: Scott Sewell/US Presswire
9. Josh Lenz (Iowa State)
2011 Stats: 39 REC, 510 YDS, 2 TD
The Cyclones’ leading returning receiver, Lenz was a steady player last season. The Iowa native broke out with eight catches for 117 yards on Oct. 22 and even had four for 72 against Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. But the 6-foot-1 Lenz, who averaged 13.1 yards per catch last season, doesn’t inspire confidence in us as a No. 1 wide out.
Lenz will work with developing quarterback Jared Barnett to form a combination that won’t scare many in the Big 12. Though, entering his fourth season as a contributor at Iowa State, Lenz does have some experience to offer. That won’t be enough to stretch Big 12 defenses.
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8. D.J. Beshears (Kansas)
2011 Stats: 40 REC, 437 YDS, 3 TD
Being a receiver at Kansas hasn’t been a great job in recent years, when the Jayhawks - much like the other facets of their game - haven’t been able to get out of their own way. But in 2012, the offensive-minded Charlie Weis enters as the presumed savior. He will bring along quarterback Dayne Crist, a highly recruited player who flamed out at Notre Dame.
So there could be more opportunities for Beshears, who earned a spot ahead of two receivers on this list for his obvious play-making ability. He led the Big 12 in kick return yards (1,014) and finished third in the league in all-purpose yards (1,587). Oh yeah, he led the team in catches and yards while tying for the team lead in receiving TDs. We’re interested to see how Weis uses him in 2012.
Photo: Denny Medley/US Presswire
7. Mike Davis (Texas)
2011 Stats: 45 REC, 609 YDS, 1 TD
Texas needs to see more out of Davis, who set a Longhorns freshman record with 47 catches in 2010. While he still contributed with 45 catches in 2011, he did not take the leap that many had hoped he would as a sophomore. UT is desperate for an offensive renaissance, and that may hinge on the play under center. But Davis certainly can help the Longhorns out by stretching the defense and becoming a big-play threat down the field.
QB David Ash and talented RB Malcolm Brown will benefit from an improvement out of Davis, who was benched last year for poor showings in practice. There’s no room for that in 2012, when coach Mack Brown hopes to bring Texas back to prominence.
Photo: Brendan Maloney/US Presswire
6. Josh Stewart (Oklahoma State)
2011 Stats: 19 REC, 291 YDS, 2 TD
As we’ve mentioned a few times, it will a different look in Stillwater this season. QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon, a dynamic duo for the one-loss Cowboys in 2011, are off to the NFL. RB Joseph Randle is still around, but Okie State certainly won’t have the big-play offense that it did last fall as it now has Clint Chelf at quarterback.
While WR Tracy Moore will move into Blackmon’s role on the outside, it’s clear that Chelf isn’t going to come in and start bombing away with the precision of Weeden - and who could expect that? That’s why we have tabbed Stewart, a sophomore in 2012, as the No. 1 wide out for the Cowboys. Yes, he only had 19 catches in 2012, but it’s a new day for Okie State with Chelf, who no doubt will be looking Stewart’s way at inside receiver before he develops the long-range rapport with Moore.
Photo: Michael Johnson/US Presswire
5. Darrin Moore (Texas Tech)
2011 Stats: 47 REC, 571 YDS, 8 TD
We got a taste of what could be for Moore, who had just 15 catches in 2010 before nearly surpassing that output with 12 grabs for 221 yards and a touchdown in the 2011 opener against Texas State. He followed that with nine for 118 and three scores against New Mexico. But in the third game of the season, Moore was injured against Nevada - spraining ligaments in both his knees and hurting his left ankle. It was enough to slow him for the rest of the season, though not keep him out of action long term.
He did not catch a pass against the Wolfpack, then missed the next three games before playing the last six at less than 100%, to say the least. The Red Raiders lost seven of their last eight games, and Moore didn’t go over 100 yards in the final six that he played - five of them losses. With an offseason to recover fully, let’s see if Moore returns to his early 2011 form.
Photo: Michael Johnson/US Presswire
4. Josh Boyce (TCU)
2011 Stats: 61 REC, 998 YDS, 9 TD
Boyce has the benefit of QB Casey Pachall, an emerging star, who also will be working with the wide-receiver duo of Brandon Carter and Skye Dawson. That should open up some room for the strong Boyce, who averaged more than 16.0 yards per catch last season in the Mountain West. Things won’t be quite as easy in the Big 12, but the rising junior is coming into his own after a sophomore season in which he fell just two yards short of the vaunted 1,000-yard plateau.
As ESPN.com pointed out in its prediction of Big 12 1,000-yard wide outs, the Horned Frogs may be playing from behind more often in their new league, which allows Pachall to focus on throwing the ball to Boyce down the field. We seen a continued incline for the TCU wide receiver.
Photo: Jake Roth/US Presswire
3. Terrance Williams (Baylor)
2011 Stats: 59 REC, 957 YDS, 11 TD
If you want production, we know that Baylor’s Williams will be able to provide it. He totaled 59 catches for 957 yards and 11 TDs - numbers that No. 1 wide outs would kill for - despite being a second banana to Kendall Wright, who put up 1,600 yards with Robert Griffin III throwing him the ball last season.
Now enter Nick Florence, a more traditional pocket passer, who certainly will need a top target in his first year as the starter. As we pointed out in our Big 12 QB rankings, Florence has show ability when given the chance to sub for RGIII in past seasons. The same can be said for Williams when the ball is thrown his way instead of to Wright. So even if Florence to Williams isn’t as flashy as RGIII to Wright, it could be nearly as effective in 2012.
Photo: Jerome Miron/US Presswire
2. Kenny Stills (Oklahoma)
2011 Stats: 61 REC, 849 YDS, 8 TD
Sure, Stills is known for his wild haircut, but we think that it will be his play on the field that will gain him notoriety in 2012. His sophomore campaign in 2011 wasn’t too shabby. He racked up the numbers you see above despite sharing the field for most of the season with Ryan Broyles, the record-setting wide receiver who suffered a season-ending knee injury and missed the team’s last four games.
While Stills didn’t break out without Broyles off the field late last year, we think that it will be his team in 2012 with Broyles gone and three other wide receivers suspended indefinitely earlier this month. In addition, Stills will team with veteran quarterback Landry Jones, who has more than 12,000 yards under his belt for the Sooners. We saw flashes in 2011, including consecutive 100-yard games against Texas Tech and Kansas State in October. We think that will come more often this fall.
Photo: Richard Rowe/US Presswire
1. Tavon Austin (West Virginia)
2011 Stats: 101 REC, 1186 YDS, 8 TD
We couldn’t keep Austin away from the top spot on this list. His final game of last season included 12 catches for 123 yards and four touchdowns in a 70-33 Orange Bowl rout of Clemson. Those scores were half of Austin’s 2011 touchdown total. But he was more into providing a volume of catches as the only Big 12 wide receiver to record 100 or more in 2011.
The 5-foot-9 Austin isn’t your prototypical first-option wide out, but WVU makes sure to get the ball to him in Dana Holgorsen’s system. With Geno Smith perhaps the best quarterback in the Big 12, and one of the best in the country, we see this tandem taking West Virginia to new heights in 2012.
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