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Ranking Big 12 Wide Receivers Ahead of 2023 Season

NCAA Football: Kansas at Texas

With less than six weeks left until the 2023 college football season kicks off, the time has come to start taking a serious look at the Big 12 landscape and where teams stack up against one another.

With 14 teams in the conference in 2023, there are a lot of new names and playmakers to get familiar with, but we are here to help. Leading up to the 2023 season, Heartland College Sports has taken the liberty of power ranking the position units in the Big 12 heading into the year.

Today, we continue the Power Rankings with the wide receivers units from around the league. Let’s take a look.

 

Disclaimer: Yes, tight ends are people too. However, they are included in this power ranking with the wide receivers.

1. Texas

Projected Starters: WR Xavier Worthy, WR AD Mitchell, WR Jordan Whittington, TE Ja’Tavion Sanders

This was the easiest position group to determine the top team for yet in our rankings, as Texas’ group of pass catchers are as good a collection as there are in the country. Xavier Worthy, Jordan Whittington, and Ja’Tavion Sanders return as the top three receivers from last season, which alone would give them an argument for No. 1 on this list. However, add in transfer wideout AD Mitchell (Georgia), five-star freshman Johntay Cook, and a healthy Isaiah Neyor and there’s no question who has stacked the most talent at this position in the Big 12.

2. Texas Tech

Projected Starters: WR Jerand Bradley, WR Myles Price, WR Xavier White, TE Baylor Cupp

Behind the Longhorns at No. 2 is Texas Tech, who has an embarrassment of riches at the position themselves. It all starts with Jerand Bradley, who led TTU in receiving last season and was selected as a preseason first-team selection heading into 2023. The Red Raiders return each of their top five receivers from a season ago, while also adding burner DeAndre McCray (Austin Peay) to the mix. Baylor Cupp returns at TE and at 6-6, 260 pounds, provides some mismatch issues for opposing defenses.

3. Kansas

Projected Starters: WR Luke Grimm, WR Lawrence Arnold, WR Quentin Skinner, TE Mason Fairchild

Kansas was one of the best offenses in the country last season and returns each of its top eight pass catchers from a season ago. Lawrence Arnold leads the group and ranks fifth among returning Big 12 wideouts with 716 yards receiving a year ago. Quentin Skinner and Luke Grimm combined for 78 receptions, 1,063 yards, and 11 touchdowns a season. Meanwhile, Mason Fairchild returns after being selected as the 2nd Team All-Big 12 in 2022 with 35 receptions, 443 yards, and six scores. This is an underrated group nationally and should be productive yet again.

 

4. TCU

Projected Starters: WR JoJo Earle, WR John Paul Richardson, WR Savion Williams, TE Jared Wiley

TCU will have to replace its top three wideouts from a season ago, losing Quentin Johnston, Taye Barber, and Derius Davis from 2022. However, the Horned Frogs might’ve done the best job in this conference at bringing in talent to the WR room from the transfer portal. JoJo Earle (Alabama) and John Paul Richardson (Oklahoma State) step right in and become starters for Kendal Briles’ offense while Savion Williams looks to be ready for an expanded role. Jared Wiley returns at tight end after a good season in ’22, while Jack Bech (LSU) comes in and provides depth at the position. With Earle bringing elite athleticism and Richardson bringing in plenty of experience, this group is deep despite losing a lot from a year ago.

5. UCF

Projected Starters: WR Javon Baker, WR Kobe Hudson, WR Xavier Townsend, TE Alec Holler

The Knights lose just one starter from a season ago in WR Ryan O’Keefe, while returning four of their top five pass catchers from last year. Javon Baker led the Knights with 796 yards last season, while Kobe Hudson led the team with seven scores and 16.4 yards per reception. O’Keefe led the Knights with 73 catches a year ago, so there is definitely volume to be had for someone else heading into 2023. Xavier Townsend returns, but newcomers in Chauncey Magwood (Kentucky) and Trent Whitmore (Florida) will provide competition for targets. Alec Holler returns at tight end after ranking fourth on the team with 276 yards and a score a season ago. This group is in good shape heading into 2023.

6. Oklahoma State

Projected Starters: WR Brennan Presley, WR De’Zhaun Stribling, WR Blaine Green, TE Josiah Johnson

One could argue that Oklahoma State should be lower on this list, considering it loses five of its top six pass catchers from a season ago, with 156 receptions, 2,166 yards, and 14 touchdowns leaving with them. However, Brennan Presley (3rd Team All-Big 12) leads all Big 12 returning wideouts with 813 yards last season and leads what could be a better-than-expected unit. Washington State De’Zhaun Stribling is an exciting addition, while Arland Bruce (Iowa) and Leon Johnson (D-III) will bring some new blood to the room. Talyn Shettron also has a high ceiling after redshirting in ’22. Josiah Johnson (UMass) will take over at TE and has plenty of experience coming in.

7. Oklahoma

Projected Starters: WR Jalil Farooq, WR Nic Anderson, WR Drake Stoops, TE Austin Stogner

Oklahoma is the unit on this list that can climb the most, as the upside in the room is ridiculous despite a lack of returning production. The Sooners lose All-Big 12 WR Marvin Mims, while Jalil Farooq leads OU’s returning pass-catchers with 461 yards and five scores a season ago. Nic Anderson and Jayden Gibson look like players ready to contribute on the outside, while super senior Drake Stoops will man the slot. Someone will need to emerge from a host of newcomers, which includes Andrel Anthony (Michigan), Brenan Thompson (Texas), and freshman Jaquazie Pettaway, who ranks as a top 10 player coming in. Austin Stogner returns at TE after one year at South Carolina and gives OU a solid starter at a key position.

 

8. BYU

Projected Starters: WR Kody Epps, WR Keanu Hill, WR Chase Roberts, TE Isaac Rex

Puka Nacua is now turning heads with the Los Angeles Rams, but BYU has some important pieces back in 2023. Kody Epps returns after missing the final five games with injury, while Keanu Hill leads the Cougars returning wideouts in yards (572) and touchdowns (7) a season ago. Chase Roberts will see his role expand as a sophomore, while Darius Lassiter (Eastern Michigan) and Keelan Marion (UConn) provide more depth at the position. Isaac Rex returns at tight end after 22 receptions and six scores last year.

9. Houston

Projected Starters: WR Matthew Golden, WR Samuel Brown, WR Joseph Manjack, TE Mike O’Laughlin

Replacing Tank Dell’s 109 receptions, 1,389 yards and 17 touchdowns will be incredibly tough, and second-leading receiver KeSean Carter is gone as well. Matthew Golden leads the returning pass catchers for Houston and should give them a go-to No. 1 target in the offense after an impressive freshman season. Samuel Brown will also play a major role for UH, as will newcomers Stephon Johnson (Oklahoma State) and Joshua Cobbs (Wyoming). Mike O’Laughlin transfers in from West Virginia and gives the Cougars a 6-5, 250 target over the middle, which should help. Life after All-American Tank Dell might prove difficult for the first few weeks, but they should get things ironed out.

10. Baylor

Projected Starters: WR Ketron Johnson, WR Monaray Baldwin, TE Jake Roberts, TE Kelsey Johnson

Baylor’s passing offense was lacking in 2022, and much of that had to do with inexperience at wide receiver. Heading into 2023, the Bears have six of their top eight pass catchers back, led by Monaray Baldwin. Newcomer Ketron Johnson (Arkansas) will hope to provide a spark for this group, while Jake Roberts (North Texas) will help fill the void left by Ben Sims at tight end. This group is more experienced and looks better heading into 2023.

11. Kansas State

Projected Starters: WR Phillip Brooks, WR RJ Garcia, WR Keagan Johnson, TE Ben Sinnott

Malik Knowles is gone after earning 2nd-Team All-Big 12 honors in 2022, leaving Phillip Brooks to serve as the Wildcats’ No. 1 guy heading into 2023. TE Ben Sinnott is one of the must underappreciated players in this conference, and is K-State’s second-leading returning pass catcher. Behind those two though, there’s a lot of question marks. Iowa transfer Keagan Johnson hopes to fill the void left by KSU losing four of its top six receivers, while RJ Garcia will need to step into a bigger role. This group might take a step back from last season.

12. Iowa State

Projected Starters: WR Jaylin Noel, WR Jayden Higgins, TE Deshawn Hanika, TE Gabe Burkle

Outside of Tank Dell at Houston, there might not be a team that has a harder time replacing their top target from last year than Iowa State. Xavier Hutchinson paced the Cyclones’ wideouts last season with 1,171 yards and 107 receptions. Jaylin Noel leads this group now and had 60 catches for 572 yards and three scores a year ago. Eastern Kentucky transfer Jayden Higgins was a good pickup from the portalm while Deshawn Hanika and Gabe Burkle give ISU a solid one-two at tight end. However, I see this group struggling to replace Hutchinson.

13. West Virginia

Projected Starters: WR Devin Carter, WR Cortez Braham, WR Jeremiah Aaron, TE Kole Taylor

West Virginia loses each of its top four wideouts from a season ago, including Sam James and Bryce Ford-Wheaton. Devin Carter (NC State) looks like the early favorite to be WR1, while Cortz Braham represents the leading returnee at the position. Ja’Shaun Poke (Kent State) transfers in at wide receiver as well, while Kole Taylor (LSU) will take over at tight end, replacing Mike O’Laughlin. This group lost a lot of production and experience from a year ago, and has a lot of questions entering the 2023 season.

14. Cincinnati

Projected Starters: WR Xzavier Henderson, WR Braden Smith, WR Dee Wiggins, TE Charmon Metayer

Cincinnati’s situation at wide receiver looks rather bleak heading into 2023, at least based on returning experience. RB Ryan Montgomery leads returning production in the passing game with four catches for 65 yards a season ago. That’s it. Nine of the Bearcats’ top 10 pass catchers are gone heading into 2023. Now, newcomers Xzavier Henderson (Florida), Dee Wiggins (Louisville), and Braden Smith (Louisville) look to be the favorites to start this season, but the lack of experience and production here is concerning.

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