August 14, 2006

Sophomore receivers dominate early rankings

The most striking number in the rankings of the nation's wide receivers is 10.

That's how many sophomores help make up our top 25 at the position, to go with nine seniors and six juniors.

Some of these guys we saw coming for years. DeSean Jackson, Mohamed Massaquoi, Mario Manningham and Malcolm Kelly were ranked third, fourth, fifth and sixth respectively among wide receivers by in the Class of 2005.

But Davone Bess slipped completely under our radar. And Sidney Rice was ranked only 55th among receivers in the Class of 2004. He's at the head of the class now.

With a year of experience under their belts, you'd think the sky is the limit for the sophomore receivers of 2006. Then again, they're known commodities now. There will be no sneaking up on the opposition. Rice will go from afterthought to forethought. Earl Bennett will go from peripheral to focus.

If the sophomore jinx strikes, don't look for too many juniors on next year's list. 2006 Preseason Top Wide Receivers
1. Dwayne Jarrett, Southern Cal, Jr., 6-5, 210
Receivers at USC put up gaudy numbers, and Jarrett has them. But it was his performance in the Rose Bowl that opened more eyes. He went over the middle time and time again, made great catches and fought for extra yards. He lit up Texas for 121 yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions. His season totals: 91 receptions, 1,274 yards and 16 TDs.
2. Jeff Samardzija, Notre Dame, Sr., 6-5, 216
The lanky Hoosier native benefited as much from new coach Charlie Weis as quarterback Brady Quinn. Samardzija comes off a consensus All-American junior season in which he established school single-season records for reception yardage (1,190) and touchdown catches (15). He caught 71 passes. He's sure to garner more defensive attention this season, but don't bet on his production to drop markedly. Weis and Quinn are still in place and fellow wide receiver Rhema McKnight is returning from injury on the other side.
3. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech, Jr., 6-4, 235
The Yellow Jackets have hardly been an offensive juggernaut, but even with defenses focused on him Johnson has been able to make plays. He led Tech last season with 54 receptions for 888 yards and six touchdowns. Just to let you know he's a big-game player, three of his six TDs came in games against ranked opponents. He also had a career day against N.C. State with 10 catches for 130 yards, including a 27-yard score.
4. Sidney Rice, South Carolina, So., 6-4, 191
Rice burst on the scene for the Gamecocks and earned the honor as's National Freshman of the Year. He was the key cog in making Steve Spurrier's offense go in Columbia. Rice posted 70 receptions for 1,143 yards and 13 touchdowns. He topped the 100-yard receiving mark in six of South Carolina's last seven games, including a 191-yard, 12-catch effort against Missouri in the Independence Bowl.
5. Jason Hill, Washington State, Sr., 6-1, 210
It's easy to remain a secret playing for a mediocre team in Pullman, but the San Francisco native has put together consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and is high on the radar of NFL scouts. Despite missing a game last season because of a quad injury, Hill posted 1,097 yards and 13 touchdowns on 62 receptions. He torched Cal for 240 yards and three TDs on just six catches.
6. DeSean Jackson, Cal, So., 6-0, 166
Despite missing one game due to injury, this true freshman led the Golden Bears in receptions (38), receiving yards (601) and TD receptions (seven). He also returned a punt 49 yards for a touchdown. Jackson had perhaps his best game of the season in Cal's bowl game with 130 yards and two TDs on six receptions. With a year of experience and no health problems, Jackson is poised for a breakout year.
7. Ted Ginn Jr., Ohio State, Jr., 6-0, 175
The Cleveland native appeared to sleepwalk through much of the season before he and quarterback Troy Smith got on the same page after the midway point. In the Buckeyes' final four games Ginn had about half of his season production (24 of his 51 receptions and 421 of his 803 receiving yards). That includes a breakout Fiesta Bowl in which he torched Notre Dame for 167 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions. He added 73 yards and a touchdown on two rushes. Expect to see a commitment to getting him the ball early and often this season.
8. Dwayne Bowe, LSU, Sr., 6-3, 217, LSU
His numbers were tempered by some early-season injury problems, but he still managed to post 710 yards and nine touchdowns on just 41 receptions. He had a streak of seven consecutive games in which he caught at least one TD. Bowe has prototypical NFL size with the speed to match. And unlike some other receivers among our top 25, Bowe has a bevy of QBs who can get him the ball.
9. Davone Bess, Hawaii, So., 5-11, 187
You see the numbers and the first thing you think is "system guy." One might believe until he sees Bess play. The kid gets open, catches everything thrown his way and makes big plays. Suddenly his 89 receptions for 1,124 yards and 11 touchdowns don't seem so outrageous. He'd be a top receiver at any other school in the country, he just wouldn't get the ball as often.
10. Andre Caldwell, Florida, Sr., 6-1, 200
The younger brother of former Gators receiver and current NFL player Reche Caldwell suffered a broken leg against Tennessee in the third game last season. He was held out of contact in spring drills as well, but he appears to be ready to start in the fall. As a sophomore in 2004 he had 43 receptions for 689 yards and three TDs.
Best of the rest
11. Paul Williams, Fresno State, Sr., 6-2, 200
12. Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt, So., 6-0, 195
13. Mohamed Massaquoi, Georgia, So., 6-2, 196
14. David Clowney, Virginia Tech, Sr., 6-1, 179
15. James Hardy, Indiana, So., 6-7, 216
16. Mario Manningham, Michigan, So., 6-1, 187
17. Steve Smith, USC, Sr., 6-1, 195
18. Dorien Bryant, Purdue, Jr., 5-10, 175
19. Todd Blythe, Iowa State, Junior
20. Jarrett Hicks, Texas Tech, Sr., 6-3, 212
21. Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma, So., 6-4, 204
22. Limas Sweed, Texas, Jr., 6-5, 215
23. Rhema McKnight, Notre Dame, Sr., 6-2, 212
24. Derrick Williams, Penn State, So., 6-0, 201
25. Mario Urrutia, Louisville, So., 6-6, 220

More Preseason Player Rankings:
Quarterbacks | Running backs | Offensive linemen | Kickers/Punters | Return Specialists | Wide receivers | Tight ends

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