With spring practice underway for many college football teams, the countdown to the 2013 season has officially started. With preseason predictions right around the corner, it’s never too early to start thinking about which players might be the next breakout stars.
While the final NCAA statistics featured plenty of familiar names atop the leaderboard, players like Arizona’s Austin Hill, New Mexico State’s Austin Franklin, Fresno State’s Davante Adams and Oklahoma State’s Josh Stewart came off the radar to place inside of the top 20 in receiving yards per game.
Who will be those stars in 2013? TCU’s Brandon Carter, North Carolina’s Quinshad Davis, Notre Dame’s DaVaris Daniels, Louisville’s DeVante Parker and Washington’s Kasen Williams are Athlon’s early picks to be a rising star at receiver this season.
Defining who fits the rising star or breakout player label isn’t easy. Although these five players might not be household names in March, it could be a different story by the end of the season.
College Football’s Top 5 Wide Receivers on the Rise for 2013
Brandon Carter, TCU
Due to Casey Pachall’s suspension, TCU’s passing attack never reached its potential last year. Trevone Boykin was a capable fill-in, but Pachall allows the Horned Frogs to stretch the field more. With Pachall expected back under center, TCU’s passing game is due to take off this year. Carter was regarded as one of the top athletes in Texas in the 2011 signing class and hasn’t disappointed in his first two years on campus. After catching 23 passes as a freshman, Carter recorded 36 receptions for 590 yards and six scores last season. The Trinity High School product has provided plenty of big plays during his two years at TCU, catching an 80-yard touchdown pass against Oklahoma and a 68-yard score against Virginia. And with Pachall firing passes in his direction in 2013, Carter is due to see an increase in catches and touchdowns.
DaVaris Daniels, Notre Dame
With Everett Golson dealing with the ups and downs in his first year as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback, the Fighting Irish averaged only 222.7 passing yards per game in 2012. Expect those numbers to change in 2013, as Golson got better in the second half of the season and will improve with another spring practice to work as the starter. Despite missing two games due to injury, Daniels caught 31 passes for 490 yards and averaged 15.8 yards per catch. With the departure of tight end Tyler Eifert to the NFL, expect Golson to be looking more in Daniels’ direction in 2013.
Quinshad Davis, North Carolina
Davis was one of the top recruits in North Carolina's 2012 recruiting class and didn’t disappoint in his first year on campus. He played in all 12 games, recording 61 receptions for 776 yards and five touchdowns. Davis averaged only 12.7 yards per reception but had his best performances at the end of the year. The South Carolina native caught seven passes for 104 yards and one touchdown against Georgia Tech, followed by a monster 16 catches in a 37-13 victory over Virginia. Davis capped off the season with nine catches and two scores against Maryland. With quarterback Bryn Renner returning, and the Tar Heels having another offseason to pick up Larry Fedora’s offense, Davis’ numbers are sure to increase. And with tight end Eric Ebron returning, the Tar Heels will have one of the top receiving corps and passing attacks in the ACC for 2013.
DeVante Parker, Louisville
With Teddy Bridgewater back under center, Louisville is the heavy favorite to win the Big East in 2013. While Bridgewater gets most of the publicity, Parker has quietly emerged as one of college football’s top deep threats. As a freshman, he caught 18 passes for 291 yards and six touchdowns and improved those totals to 40 receptions for 744 yards and 10 scores in 2012. For his career, Parker is averaging 17.8 yards per catch. After earning first-team All-Big East honors in 2012, with another big season in Louisville, Parker could be an All-American candidate at the end of 2013.
Kasen Williams, Washington
Considering Williams earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors last season, he’s not a complete unknown to most around the Pac-12. However, the rest of the nation needs to take notice in 2013. After catching 36 passes as a freshman, Williams grabbed 77 receptions (third in Washington single-season history) for 878 yards and six scores in 2012. His best performance came in Washington’s upset win over Stanford, recording 10 catches for 129 yards and one touchdown. Williams also finished the year on fire, catching at least six passes in each of his final four games. The top spring priority for Washington is to get quarterback Keith Price back on track after a down 2012 season. If Price regains his 2011 form, Williams could have a monster year, which could be enough for him to make an early jump to the NFL.
Others to Watch in 2013
Nelson Agholor, USC
With Robert Woods leaving early for the NFL, Agholor is set to become USC’s No. 2 receiver. As a freshman last season, he caught 19 passes for 340 yards and two scores. Agholor’s best performance came against Oregon, which was his only 100-yard game of 2012. Even though USC has an unsettled quarterback situation, Agholor is a rising star and is due for a breakout year.
Michael Bennett, Georgia
A torn ACL ended Bennett’s 2012 season prematurely, as he finished with 24 receptions for 345 yards and four scores. Assuming he can quickly find his pre-injury form, Bennett will be a major factor in Georgia’s passing attack.
Aaron Burbridge, Michigan State
If the Spartans can sort out their quarterback issues, Burbridge could have a breakout season after catching 29 passes in 2012.
Damiere Byrd/Shaq Roland, South Carolina
With Ace Sanders leaving early for the NFL, the Gamecocks are looking for a new No. 1 target. Bruce Ellington caught 40 passes last season, but Byrd or Roland will figure prominently into the passing attack in 2013.
Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
With James Franklin at less than full strength last season, Missouri’s passing attack never managed to get on track. Green-Beckham finished the year with 28 catches for 395 yards and five touchdowns and the five-star recruit should be even better in 2013 – provided Franklin finds his 2011 form.
Deontay Greenberry, Houston
Greenberry was a huge catch on the recruiting trail for Houston and finished 2012 with 47 receptions for 569 yards and three scores. If the Cougars can get consistent quarterback play in 2013, Greenberry could be an All-Big East receiver.
Chris Harper, California
With Keenan Allen off to the NFL, California will have a new No. 1 receiver in 2013. And with the coaching change, the Golden Bears are expected to throw more, which should help Harper easily surpass last season’s totals – 41 receptions for 544 yards.
Robert Herron, Wyoming
Herron was a big-play threat for the Cowboys last season, averaging 21.2 yards per reception on 31 catches. With quarterback Brett Smith returning, Herron should build on his standout 2012 season and figures to be an All-Mountain West receiver in 2013.
Cody Latimer, Indiana
Led by Latimer and Shane Wynn, the Hoosiers quietly have one of the Big Ten’s top receiving corps. Latimer caught 51 passes for 805 yards and six scores last season, and with more stability under center in 2013, the Ohio native could make a run at first-team All-Big Ten honors.
Trey Metoyer, Oklahoma
Big things were expected of Metoyer in 2012, but he finished with just 17 receptions for 148 yards. With Kenny Stills off to the NFL, Metoyer could have his breakout season.
Charone Peake, Clemson
DeAndre Hopkins left early for the NFL, leaving the Tigers without a No. 2 target to pair with Sammy Watkins. Peake could be that receiver after catching 25 passes for 172 yards as a sophomore in 2012.
Jordan Thompson, West Virginia
With the Mountaineers’ top three receivers and quarterback Geno Smith gone from last season, West Virginia’s offense is essentially starting from scratch. However, Dana Holgorsen will keep the Mountaineers among the best offenses in the Big 12, even with a new quarterback under center. Thompson is expected to be one of the favorite targets for the new passer and should easily surpass last season’s totals – 13 receptions for 85 yards.
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