March 14, 2007

The 2007 Contenders: Fred Biletnikoff Award

Today's college football players probably couldn't tell Biletnikoff from Baryshnikov.

And maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Why differentiate when possessing the skills of both?

Many of the country's best receivers have hands like Fred Biletnikoff, the legendary Florida State All-American receiver, and the grace and moves of Mikhail Baryshnikov - the legendary Russian ballet dancer.

A dozen receivers who caught at least 70 passes in 2006 will return to their teams in 2007. There are also 12 coming back who exceeded 1,000 receiving yards. Those figures alone further prove how far college football has come since the days of the Wishbone and Veer.

Of course, receivers' stats and status are largely dependent on the accuracy of quarterbacks, play-calling of coaches and even the weather.

But with so many excellent split ends returning, there is no shortage of contenders to emerge as the nation's premier receiver and win the trophy named for the aforementioned legend.

That would be Biletnikoff, not Baryshnikov. College football hasn't come that far. top Biletnikoff Award contenders
1. DeSean Jackson, California, Jr. : There were several receivers who had more catches last season, but few matched Jackson as a deep threat. Nine of his 59 catches in 2006 went for touchdowns, and five of those were from 27 yards or farther. He averaged 18.0 yards per reception. Jackson should benefit from the return of quarterback Nate Longshore. The Bears' schedule also includes eight opponents that ranked between 64th and 116th nationally in pass defense last season. The fact that he's also the country's most dangerous punt return man - he had four touchdown returns from 65 yards or farther last year - will only enhance Jackson's profile.
2. Mario Manningham, Michigan, Jr. : Manningham demonstrated his All-American ability in a three-game stretch in late September. He toasted Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Minnesota for 16 receptions for 381 yards and six touchdowns. The next week he had three catches and two touchdowns against Michigan State before sustaining a knee injury that forced him out of next four games. However, Manningham came back to post six catches against Ohio State and six against Southern California, so the knee clearly was no longer a problem. Manningham averaged 18.5 yards on 38 catches and had nine touchdowns. The reception and touchdown totals figure to increase with the return of quarterback Chad Henne.
3. Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt, Jr. : Bennett had 157 receiving yards against national champion Florida, which is more than double what Tennessee's Robert Meachem, LSU's Dwayne Bowe, South Carolina's Sidney Rice and Ohio State's Anthony Gonzalez managed against the Gators. Possessing good speed and better hands, Bennett caught 82 passes for 1,146 yards in 2006 and did not have the benefit of a bowl game to bolster those statistics. Bennett, who has 161 career receptions, had at least four catches in every game last season and had more than 150 receiving yards in four games.
4. Harry Douglas, Louisville, Sr. : Only one returning player averaged more receiving yardage per game than Douglas did in 2006, and Douglas has Heisman contender Brian Brohm throwing to him. Douglas caught 70 passes last season for 1,265 yards and six touchdowns. Most of his yardage was accumulated in the second half of the season, so he has momentum going for him. Douglas had no less than 86 receiving yards in any of the last six games, and had 100-yard performances in each of the last three games. Five of his six touchdowns were in November and December. Teammate Mario Urrutia, a 6-foot-6 target who had 58 catches last year, theoretically could draw passes away from Douglas. However, it obviously wasn't an issue last season.
5. DJ Hall, Alabama, Sr. : Catching 62 passes for 1,056 yards and five touchdowns is impressive enough, but consider that Hall posted those numbers despite missing the Crimson Tide's season-opening victory over Hawaii, which ranked 105th nationally in pass defense. True, he still feasted on a few overmatched opponents (seven catches for 124 yards vs. Duke), but some of his seven 100-yard receiving performances also came against Arkansas (six for 144), Florida (six for 117), Tennessee (seven for 102) and LSU (eight for 142). He has an able quarterback in John Parker Wilson and an opposite receiver in Keith Brown who's good enough to draw coverage away from Hall.
Others to consider
Dorien Bryant, Purdue, Sr., 87 catches, 1,068 yards, six TDs
Davone Bess, Hawaii, Jr., 82 catches, 1,220 yards, 15 TDs
Adarius Bowman, Oklahoma State, 60 catches, 1,181 yards, 12 TDs
Jarrett Dillard, Rice, Jr., 91 catches, 1,247 yards, 21 TDs
Sammie Stroughter, Oregon State, Sr., 74 catches, 1,293 yards, five TDs is your source for: College Football | Football Recruiting | College Basketball | Basketball Recruiting | College Baseball | High School | College Merchandise
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