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Unit Rankings: 2012 Pac-12 Wide Receivers

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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 Pac-12's WR/TE Corps for 2012

1. USC – Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are back to form college football’s top one-two receiver combination. Woods caught 111 passes for 1,292 yards and 15 scores last season, while Lee recorded 73 receptions for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Matt Barkley returning for another year at USC, it’s not crazy to think Woods and Lee could improve upon their numbers in 2012. The Trojans’ receiving corps isn’t just Woods and Lee, as the depth is solid with sophomore George Farmer, junior De’Von Flournoy and freshmen Victor Blackwell and Nelson Agholor. With all of the accolades surrounding Woods and Lee, it’s easy to overlook tight end Randall Telfer. He ranked third on the team with 26 catches for 273 yards and five touchdowns last year. Telfer will be joined at tight end by promising sophomore Xavier Grimble.

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2. Washington
When a team has to replace two receivers who rank in the top 10 all-time in school history, they normally don’t feel this excited about the unit the next year. But there is good reason for Husky Nation to be fired up about Keith Price’s weaponry. Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be the best tight end in the nation by season’s end after setting freshman school records a year ago. Fellow sophomore Kasen Williams also has All-American-type upside after a 36-catch, 427-yard, 6-TD freshman season. Veterans James Johnson, Kevin Smith and Cody Bruns provide much needed experience and depth. This is as talented a group as there is in a league that is loaded with powerful receiving corps.

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3. Washington State
Marquess Wilson is a superstar. He has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons as an underclassmen and now has Mike Leach calling plays for him. Oh yeah, it was Wilson, in a league with names like Allen, Woods and Lee, who led the Pac-12 in receiving a year ago. He will be supported in Leach’s spread-it-around offense from Dominique Williams, Kristoff Williams, Bobby Ratliff and Gino Simone. The 250-pound Andrei Lintz is a wideout in a tight end’s body and could pay big dividends in 2012. Leach has never had an issue finding productive pass-catchers and fans shouldn’t expect any issues with this talented collection in Pullman.

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4. Oregon State – With Robert Woods, Keenan Allen, Marquess Wilson and Marqise Lee returning, it’s easy for other receivers in the Pac-12 to get overlooked. Markus Wheaton caught 73 passes for 986 yards and one touchdown last season and largely went unnoticed. With quarterback Sean Mannion more comfortable in his second season as a starter, look for Wheaton’s numbers to increase. Brandin Cooks turned in a solid freshman year in 2011, catching 31 passes for 391 yards and three scores. Oregon State’s depth at receiver took a hit with the departure of Jordan Bishop in late June, but sophomore Obum Gwacham is a promising player. Senior Colby Prince is expected to start at tight end after catching 12 passes for 66 yards last year.

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5. Utah – With quarterback Jordan Wynn sidelined for most of last season with a shoulder injury, the Utes finished last in the Pac-12 in passing offense. With Wynn back under center in 2012, Utah should have a more balanced attack, especially if running back John White rushes for 1,000 yards once again. Senior DeVonte Christopher caught 11 passes for 136 yards and one score in the Week 2 loss to USC but failed to record more than five in a single game the rest of the year. With Wynn returning, look for Christopher to push for 60 catches in 2012. Seniors Luke Matthews and Reggie Dunn combined for 32 receptions last year and return as dependable threats. Sophomore Dres Anderson finished second on the team with 23 catches for 355 yards and three scores last season and should be a bigger part of the offense in 2012. Tight end is a strength with Kendrick Moeai, Dallin Rogers and Jake Murphy back in the mix. 

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6. Oregon
Chip Kelly’s offense hasn’t exactly been a safe haven for wide receivers, but the 2012 group looks to provide new punch to the high-flying offense. Josh Huff, who dealt with a stress fracture in his leg this spring, should be the team’s top target. Daryle Hawkins had a big spring and youngsters Devon Blackmon, Tacoi Sumler and B.J. Kelley are looking to break into the starting lineup in a big way. Rahsaan Vaughn could be the veteran presence that a green quarterback might need, however. Look for sophomore tight end Colt Lyerla to become one of the league’s best after a 5-TD freshman season.

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7. California – The Golden Bears rank of No. 7 in the Pac-12 receiver units is really due to one player – Keenan Allen. Take away Allen and California owns one of the worst receiving corps in the conference. However, the good news for the Golden Bears is Allen is back for at least one more season. The junior ranked second in the Pac-12 with 98 receptions last year, while recording 1,343 yards and six scores. Allen will once again be the go-to target for quarterback Zach Maynard, but he needs help. Freshmen Maurice Harris, Darius Powe, Kenny Lawler and Bryce Treggs could inject some much-needed athleticism and ability into this group. Spencer Hagan will start at tight end, but Richard Rodgers will push him for time in the fall. 

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8. Stanford
After Chris Owusu’s injuries, the Cardinal’s wide receivers were entirely too unproductive. Now, the only two dependable options, Griff Whalen and Coby Fleener, are gone. Yet, there is loads of talent. Ty Montgomery got much-needed experience a year ago and Jamal-Rashad Patterson and Drew Terrell need to deliver on their lofty recruiting hype. The saving grace is the tight end position, despite Fleener’s departure. Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz form the Pac-12’s top 1-2 punch at the position and both could be playing on Sundays after combining for 10 scores a year ago.

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9. Arizona State – Not only are the Sun Devils replacing quarterback Brock Osweiler, but they also have a new scheme and lose three key receivers from last year – Gerell Robinson, Aaron Pflugrad and Mike Willie. Senior Jamal Miles is the group’s best returning player, recording 60 receptions for 361 yards and six scores last year. Miles will be a steady threat, but the Sun Devils need senior Rashad Ross to emerge a downfield threat. He caught 18 passes and averaged 14.1 yards per catch last year. In addition to Ross, Arizona State’s coaching staff is looking for a big year from junior Kevin Ozier and senior A.J. Pickens. 

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10. UCLA
Three productive names have moved on from the Bruins, but this group could be a sneaky area of strength in 2012. Tight end Joseph Fauria, who has more of a wide receiver skillset than most tight ends, could be one of the nation’s best players at his position. He will make big plays from the slot all season long en route to potential Mackey Award recognition. Juniors Shaq Evans, Ricky Marvray and Jerry Rice Jr. will have to hold off talented up and comers in redshirt freshman Devin Lucien and incoming freshman Jordan Payton and Javon Williams. Payton and Lucien have loads of upside and will press for playing time almost instantly. Senior Jerry Johnson brings a veteran name to the list.

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11. Arizona
The Wildcats have to replace three players who caught at least 60 passes for at least 600 yards including star Juron Criner. Yet, in the new Rich Rodriguez scheme, the passing game clearly figures to be featured less than with Nick Foles at the helm last year. Dan Buckner has NFL talent and should be the go-to target this fall. He will be backed by talented sophomores Austin Hill, Garic Wharton, Austin Morrison (who also gets snaps at QB) and Tyler Slavin as well as senior Terrence Miller. Wharton could be the team’s fastest player. This group has plenty of options, however, the offensive system doensn’t lend itself to big production at the position.

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12. Colorado – Any chance the Buffaloes had of contending for a bowl game was likely lost in the spring when receiver Paul Richardson was lost for the season with a torn ACL. In his first two years in Boulder, Richardson caught 73 passes for 1,069 yards and 11 touchdowns. Making matters worse for Colorado is Toney Clemons and tight end Ryan Deehan both expired their eligibility after the 2011 season. With Richardson out of the picture this year, it’s up to an inexperienced group of receivers to pickup the slack. Sophomore Tyler McCulloch caught 10 passes last season and will have to be the new go-to target for quarterback Connor Wood. Freshmen Nelson Spruce, Gerald Thomas, Peyton Williams and Jeffrey Thomas will be allowed to compete right away for playing time. 

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by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

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