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Louisville's DeVante Parker is a rising star to watch in the Big East.
Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.
Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.
Ranking the Big East's Receiving Corps for 2012
1. South Florida – The Bulls ranked second in the Big East in passing offense last season and could push for the conference lead in 2012. Quarterback B.J. Daniels threw for a career-high 2,604 yards last season, while tossing 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Daniels should eclipse those numbers in 2012, as South Florida returns nearly all of its pass catchers from last year. Despite missing four games due to injury, Sterling Griffin led the team with 43 catches for 530 yards. Griffin should push for All-Big East honors in 2012, and has plenty of help with the return of Victor Marc, Deonte Welch and Andre Davis. The wildcard to watch in the receiving corps will be Florida transfer Chris Dunkley. Tight end Evan Landi caught 29 passes last year and will be a dependable threat over the middle in 2012.
2. Rutgers – There’s really not a clear No. 1 receiving corps in the Big East, and a case could be made the Scarlet Knights should rank at the top. Mohamed Sanu departs after catching 115 passes last season, but the cupboard is far from bare for new coach Kyle Flood. Brandon Coleman finished 2011 on a tear, catching six passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Connecticut, while taking his only reception against Iowa State for 86 yards and a score. Joining Coleman as key contributors will be Mark Harrison, Quron Pratt and Tim Wright. Harrison caught only 14 passes last season after nabbing 44 receptions in 2010. If he returns to form and Coleman continues to emerge, Rutgers should be in great shape at receiver. Tight end D.C. Jefferson is another weapon to watch, and he has 22 receptions over the last two years.
3. Louisville – If there’s a group that could take a big step forward in 2012, look no further than Louisville. The Cardinals lose receiver Josh Bellamy and tight end Josh Chichester, but return a handful of talented youngsters. DeVante Parker only caught 18 passes as a freshman last year, but took six of those for scores and averaged 16.2 yards per reception. Eli Rogers also made a big impact as a freshman last season, leading the team with 41 receptions. Rogers and Parker will join fellow sophomore Michaelee Harris as the likely starters, while Jarrett Davis, Andrell Smith and Scott Radcliff will provide depth.
4. Syracuse – The Orange must replace running back Antwon Bailey, but the offense returns quarterback Ryan Nassib and All-Big East tackle Justin Pugh. Syracuse ranked fifth in the conference in total offense last year, so getting improvement from this unit will be crucial if the Orange want to return to a bowl game. Departing as key weapons in the receiving corps are receivers Van Chew and Dorian Graham and All-Big East tight end Nick Provo. Alec Lemon was the No. 1 target for Nassib last season and earned second-team All-Big East honors. He is once again expected to be the go-to target, while the receiving corps should receive a boost with the return of Marcus Sales, who missed all of 2011 due to a suspension. There’s not a ton of depth, but Syracuse should have one of the conference’s top duos with Sales and Lemon returning.
5. Pittsburgh – The Panthers didn’t suffer any huge losses from this group and with the arrival of offensive-minded head coach Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh could have one of the Big East’s most-improved offenses in 2012. Devin Street and Mike Shanahan are the headliners for this group and both players should be in the mix for All-Big East honors. Street led the team with 53 receptions and 754 yards last year. Cameron Saddler caught 19 passes for 207 yards and one touchdown in 2011 and is back in the mix as a No. 3 returner and weapon on special teams. Ronald Jones turned in a solid freshman campaign last year, catching 17 passes for 143 yards. Jones and Saddler will backup Street and Shanahan, but sophomore Darius Patton could work his way into playing time. Tight end Hubie Graham should have a breakout year in Chryst’s offense.
6. Cincinnati – With quarterback Zach Collaros and running back Isaiah Pead departing, 2012 figures to be a rebuilding year on offense for the Bearcats. Cincinnati also loses receiver DJ Woods, but returns Anthony McClung (49 catches in 2011) and Kenbrell Thompkins (44 catches). In addition to leading the team in catches, McClung paced Cincinnati receivers with 683 yards and six receiving scores. Sophomores Alex Chsium and Dyjuan Lewis are intriguing talents, while tight end Travis Kelce is back after catching 13 passes last year. Another option to watch will be converted quarterback Jordan Luallen, who made the switch to receiver in spring practice. Coach Butch Jones would like to see more consistency and fewer dropped passes from this group in 2012, but there’s plenty of options to keep this unit ranked among the best receiving corps in the Big East.
7. Connecticut – Quarterback play was a huge issue for the Huskies last year, but the receiving corps didn’t give the passers much help either. Connecticut loses Isiah and Kashif Moore (the top two receivers from last season), but this group could be improved in 2012. Michael Smith led the Huskies with 615 receiving yards and 46 catches in 2010 but missed 2011 due to academic suspension. Smith is back in the mix, and is joined by transfers Shakim Phillips (Boston College) and Bryce McNeal (Connecticut). Senior Nick Williams caught only 11 passes last season but averaged 21.5 yards per catch. Tight end Ryan Griffin caught 33 passes last year and is a steady performer for whichever quarterback wins the job.
8. Temple – With the departure of running back Bernard Pierce, Temple will have to lean a little more on its passing attack in 2012. Matt Brown is a capable rusher, but the Owls need more from quarterback Chris Coyer and the receivers. No Temple player caught more than 35 passes last season, and the top two statistical leaders (tight end Evan Rodriguez and receiver Joe Jones) from 2011 have departed. Deon Miller averaged 14.1 yards per reception on 18 catches and needs to play a bigger role in the offense. Seniors Malcolm Eugene and C.J. Hammond are expected to have prominent roles in 2012, but keep an eye on Jalen Fitzpatrick. The sophomore had a good spring and should provide some big-play ability to the offense.
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